History Reviewer

Opie, R. The Wartime Scrapbook, 1998

Robert Opie maintains an unrivalled collection of advertising and packaging memorabilia, and many of his pieces from the Second World War are showcased in this scrapbook. There’s a little bit of everything in the book: posters, packaging, booklets, gas masks, badges, jars, magazines, etc.

There are little scraps of information dotted around on each page to explain the significance of some of the objects, but largely the objects are left to speak for themselves.

A very colourful book that will delight those who remember the war, and fascinate others! My only criticism would be that in the effort to maintain that ‘scrapbook’ feel very few items are seen complete! But then I suppose you need to go to the museum in Gloucester!

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Waste Not, Want Not: The Museum of Brands and Packaging


The Robert Opie Collection
I have always enjoyed looking at Robert Opie’s collection of material, although I was unable to make use of it in my PhD, I definitely referred to it in a module I taught on ‘Advertising and Branding’ for Media Studies a few years ago, and have just surfed to see if collection is now more accessible, which it clearly now is. Robert Opie started collecting emphemeral material (especially packaging) at the age of 16, and maintained a collection in Gloucester, in 2005 transferring the material to London where he created the, definitely high on my list of places to visit.  In teaching ‘Using Visual Material as Historical Sources’, we always start from the perspective of what can that material tell us at a surface level, and then start to go deeper, and this museum looks at the “history of consumer culture is revealed decade by decade in the “time tunnel”, from Victorian times to the present day. Discover the trends of daily life, the revolution in shopping habits, the groceries, sweets and household goods, the changes in taste and tempo, the advent of motoring, aviation, radio and television, the gradual emancipation of women and the effects of two world wars.”

Current Exhibition: Waste Not, Want Not
You already know about my obsession with war posters (I am notoriously fickle in my interests, but have been studying Second World War posters for 16 years, with associated interests in teaching/learning/personal development/the online world/Christianity and contemporary culture), so I’m very pleased to see that the current exhibition focuses on the 1940s: “Waste Not, Want Not, which draws parallels between the austerity practiced as a result of wartime shortages and the increasing importance of sustainability today.” I have been interested to see the increasing DEMONSTRATABLE relevance of history to modern life (after years when it appeared to be disappearing out of site), through the application of historical material to modern concerns, as this exhibition demonstates with eco-concerns, and new organisations such as History and Policy indicate. After presenting a paper at a Public History conference at Ruskin College (no ivory towers for us please!), I started to think about how I could re-use my material in the modern day. In December 2008 I attended a PR course with Chantal Cooke of Passion for the Planet, and started to pull together a press release as to how posters could be used to demonstrate the relevance of wartime thinking in the current recession… with my main focus on the jobs pages in newspapers/online, I hadn’t twigged the huge fuss that Keep Calm and Carry On was making, and it’s very exciting to see just how much these posters still DO resonate…. listen to the mock radio interview created on that day. So, I’m putting my interest in making knowledge accessible online in developing this blog, and resuming work on my other plans for publication!