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The Opie Collection is simply garbage
The Museum of Brands, Packaging And Advertising (London)
Member Name: duskmaiden
The Museum of Brands, Packaging And Advertising (London)
Disadvantages: not for children and got a bit repetitive
The Opie Collection in the Notting Hill area of West London is a rubbish museum. It literally is a rubbish museum as its other title is the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising and consists mostly of old bottles tins and cans from the Victorian era onwards. Its one of those weird and wonderful museums you stumble across and wonder who could possibly think this up? Is the founder a fruitcake or a genius. Its also one of those museums that could be completely boring with its degree of specialism or utterly absorbing and fascinating in a perverse way.
A LITTLE MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSER
Robert Opie the fou8nder of the Opie Collection is one of Britain's most avid collectors (the likes we see on the antique Road show every week) and could also be seen as a real life Womble saving and collecting the "Things that the everyday folks leave behind". His collection started with a humble Munchies wrapper when he was 16 and now involves 12 000 items of consumer memorabilia from chocolate wrappers and baked bean cans to references to popular culture such as toys and technology. Basically anything commercially manufactured and mass produced since the Industrial Revolution could be included in this museum. It really is all encompassing and perhaps the ultimate social history museum.
His collection was initially housed in Gloucester but closed in 2001 to make way for flats. The museum relocated to the present site in Notting Hill in 2005. There was also a branch "The Museum of Memories" in Wigan as part of the now defunct "Wigan Pier Experience", which I visited in October 2002,. The Wigan branch was quite interactive to complement the historical theme park of the "Wigan Pier Experience" with actors in costume and plenty of themed displays such as a 1960s boutique so I was interested to see how the two different museums compared.
ALL THE FUN OF FINDING THE MUSEUM
The museum is not the easiest place to find without a decent map or London A to Z. Its not that well signposted, as its not a major tourist attraction and is located through an archway off a side street in Notting Hill. The nearest tube station is Notting Hill Gate on the Central and Circle Lines but Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park on the Hammersmith and City Line (and now the Circle) Line are also within walking distance. I'd actually recommend these two on a busy Saturday afternoon as fighting our way through the marauding jostling crowds visiitng Poertobello Road Market was pretty unpleasant, as the museum is located on one of the streets leading off the upper section of Portobello Road.
ONE MAN'S JUNK IS ANOTHER ONE'S TREASURE"
Being a private collection (and now a charitable foundation) there is an admission charge for the museum. At £5.80 (including gift aid ) for an adult it was at the top end of the scale I would pay for such a minor and unknown museum in London. Concessions are £3.50 and children £2.00. There's also a family ticket for £14.00. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays year round apart from Christmas Day and during the Notting Hill Carnival.
Compared to the Wigan branch, the London branch is very much a traditional style museum with lots and lots of glass cabinets and information panels and labels. Its located on the ground floor of the building so it would be easy for those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs to enter the building however once inside its not as accessible due to the layout of the museum. The exhibits were tightly packed within a fairly small space with cabinets facing each other. You just need one largish group or slow moving person to create a bottle neck bring the flow of the museum to a standstill making it not ideal for a wheelchair. Luckily when we visited one Saturday afternoon in September it was fairly quiet. However there were parts where one person was lingering at a certain display meaning we had to move on and come back to the display or linger at the previous one.
"THE MILKY BARS ARE ON ME"
The first part of the museum was a gentle chronological wander through the decades starting with the Victorian era. A large easy to read information panel introduced each era putting the commercial developments into a broader context with the events that occurred in that era. Within each section the cabinets were organised thematically,, Some broad such as toys to more specific such as the importance of the radio in the 20s, the war effort in the two world wars or England's 1966 world Cup victory. The cabinets are well presented but often quite densely packed especially with smaller items of packaging so its a museum you could spend quite a long time in certain areas. For those interested a laminate for each cabinet identifying key items would have been useful a
Memories are a powerful force when it comes to the Collection. I found the earlier decades useful g to understand the development of the consumer age but could not relate to most of the products on display.. Once familiar brands started arriving in the 20s and 30s it became more interesting, as we commented " did not realise that was so old " or "The Kit K at packaging has not changed that much" . I was astounded to see curry powder in the Edwardian era , as I always think of it as a much newer fad. The advertising side of the collection is particularly important, as it shows changes in society. The posters from the inter war period depicting glamorous girls smoking were very much of the period and could not be produced nowadays with our present day attitudes to the tobacco industry and government intervention. The collection also includes government promotional materials such as the famous war effort posters showing the full scope of what is meant by advertising. Backed up by particular war products such as whale meat and powdered eggs and the reduced packaging that we could all learn from this was of medium interest although I had seen some of the items a million times before in social history and military museums.
"A MARS A DAY MAKES YOU WORK RWEST AND PLAY!
Things really picked up around about the 1960s, as there were items I remember my parents owning. I was born in the 70s as was my boyfriend so we were in heaven in the 70s, 80s and 90s sections of the museum reminiscing over old crisps packetsm space hoppers and alcopop bottles. However these sections were smaller and lacking compared to the older ones with only a couple of cabinets dedicated to each one of the final decades of the 20th century".
The next section explored the development of Britain's favourite brands . Similar items such as chocolate bar or laundry detergent were grouped together. It was mildly interesting seeing how the packaging had changed over the years and which versions you remembered. There were the odd television adverts especially with Kellogs cereals. I think the museum could use more multimedia such as television adverts, slogans and jingles to bring it more alive but this could be expensive due to getting to copyright to these materials. Certain brands seam to be more prominent due to the sponsorship of the museum by a number of companies but generally these are the mos well known and loved. Somewhere in this section there was also a little bit on changing brand names and the reasons behind them. Everyone I know is mystified why marathon a good name for a chocolate bar changed top the dreadful Snickers.
There was a third section which I suppose you could call the educational section, as it covered about the manufacturing innovations and materials used in packaging including the future an the move towards environmental packaging. At this point I started to switch off. One Coca Cola can seemed to blend into the next and I started to get bored. There really is too much to take in at times and it can get a bit samey. Right at the end after a special exhibition on political memorabilia was a section dedicated to confectionery. It was good but by this time it just seemed all too similar.
Right at the end is a small area with tables and chairs and a television screen showing vintage adverts. I am not sure if there was supposed to be a cafe there or not as I saw no menus. Perhaps this was more a study or meeting area. There was also a small shop selling a selection of merchandise themed around vintage advertising that seemed to be reasonably priced.
We spent perhaps an hour to an hour and a half in the museum but as I mentioned by th end of it i found it a bit repetitive. Its not a must see when visititng London but if you are in th Notting Hill area and have an hour or so to kill its well worth a look. Although there is a child's price and family ticket I really could not recommend this museum to those with young children. After seeing a few Mars Bar wrappers and what mummy/granddad played with ate/ washed with when they were younger here would be little to amuse and keep their attention. I really is a museum for those those of middle age or above as nostalgia is the key to enjoying the Opie Collection.
Museum of Brands
2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road,
Notting Hill, London, W11 2AR
Tel: 020 7908 0880
Summary: a museum dedficated to packaging
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