Distinguishing ‘Quality Street’ From ‘Black Magic’ @ The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

May 3, 2012

London Sights

Down on a mews just off Westbourne Grove near Notting Hill you’ll find the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

Dedicated to the consumer products that we use every day, a tour of museum starts at the entrance to a maze of narrow corridors lined with glass cases full of examples of advertisements and the goods themselves, 12,000 in all, drawn from the Robert Opie Collection.

The first section deals with advertising and consumer products of the Victorian era – I was particularly struck by the tobacco section which shows clearly how tastes have changed. If you’re a smoker would you be comfortable being seen with a packet of ‘Saratoga Whiffs’ or ‘Sweet Sixteen’ cigarettes? Each subsequent area looks at products through the decades with an interesting device used to draw the whole experience together – each decade is examined through its laundry products (with whatever device was used for washing clothes in that era also on display), children’s toys and the fashion and culture typical of the period, with a cabinet dedicated to ladies fashions surrounded by sheet music or recordings of the popular music at that time. You won’t be surprised to learn that the 1920s cabinet is dominated by flapper dresses alongside rag-time and charleston tunes, or that miniskirts and Beatles albums typify the 1960s. Interrupting these chronological displays are areas dedicated to the royal family at each coronation – there are even a few commemorative items from Edward VIII’s short reign…

In the final part of the museum before you get to the shop, there are displays dedicated to several popular brands through the years, showing how much (or how little) the packaging has changed. That brings me to what is the most striking feature of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising – what it really highlights is the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The small green Perrier bottle, for example, is virtually unchanged from its introduction at the end of the 19th century, and many of the chocolate products carry virtually the same logos and colour schemes that they adopted years ago. Quality Street, another Victorian invention, continues to this day with the same font and purple colour, and both the Black Magic and Kit Kat brands are perfectly recognisable as far back as the 1930s.

Finally, dominating the museum’s shop is a series of advertising hoardings for Guinness, many of which feature the toucan which was introduced as a device in 1935 but which sadly has been absent from Guinness packaging for some time now. That brings me to the end of this post and I will leave you with a thoughtful piece of advice from Ireland:

“If you’re feeling tired, drink Guinness!”

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising is open 10 until 6pm Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 5pm on Sundays and is closed on Mondays. Full price adult tickets are £6.50 and tickets for children are £2.25. Given that a careful examination of the exhibits will take you an hour or so, it would probably be a good idea to visit the museum on a day when the Portobello Market is in full swing – that will definitely allow you to spend at least half a day in the area.

As you’ll see there are no photographs to accompany this post. Due to ‘problems with copyright’ photography in the museum is strictly prohibited. I’m sure the museum is just acting to protect itself, but this gives you a good indication of how unworkable the current UK laws around copyright are!

About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time... Google+

View all posts by The Londoneer

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply


CommentLuv badge