Permanent Collection. The artefacts of domestic life: An ever-evolving collection of half a million objects. One hundred years of cultures and lifestyle revealed through household products, toys, food, books, containers, postcards and more.
The world famous Robert Opie Collection, an ever-evolving and unrivalled collection of seemingly everyday objects amassed over almost 50 years, is revealed in the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.
The vibrant collection tells the story of over 150 years of British consumer society and numbers over 500,000 original items; some are obviously significant in their own right, but many, including sweets, washing powder boxes, posters, toys, household appliances, food packaging and fashions, only reveal their significance when seen as part of a body of objects unfolding as visitors progress through the Museum’s time tunnel.
Decade by decade, the Museum identifies objects which have the power to unlock memories; products long since consigned to history, design classics, or long- forgotten childhood toys. But beyond the ability to inspire fond memories, the Museum traces changes in social trends, style, design, fashion, entertainment, communications, travel, transport and behaviour that have transformed life in Britain. Even a short time among the 10,000 items in the Museum galleries can reveal hidden meaning and significance behind seemingly one-dimensional objects.
The Museum also presents the great inventions of the past, among them the radio, television, computer, vacuum cleaner, with some well-loved examples, the 1895 Gower-Bell telephone, the 1911 Star Vacuum Cleaner, the 1890 Rippingille oil warming stove and the world’s first portable gramophone, the 1909 Pigmy Grand.
Robert Opie said: ‘On 8 September 1963, at the age of sixteen, I bought a packet of Munchies at Inverness Railway Station. While eating them I was struck by the idea that I should save the packaging and start collecting the designed and branded packages which would otherwise surely disappear forever. Forty years later, I am still collecting and have a list of about 1000 items which need to be collected.
‘The Museum houses the highlights of my collection, evidence of a dynamic commercial system that delivers thousands of desirable items from all corners of the world, a feat arguably more complex than sending man to the Moon, but one still taken for granted. The collection has the power to stop visitors in their tracks as they reach a certain part of the Museum’s time tunnel and the era which contains their first memories. This could be provoked by a can of Quattro, Texan bar, Kodak camera, children’s comic, 1950s jukebox, baked bean tin, packet of tea or bar of soap. Each object has its own significance for every person who enters the Museum.’