In this post Jess Hill, learning volunteer at the Museum, tells us about her role in the New Youthquake event in partnership with RBKC Council, where she brought the museum to the public on Portobello market.
On the 27th May, the Museum of Brands Youth Panel and learning volunteers helped to run an experimental object handling stall during Portobello Road Market’s New Youthquake and ‘Love Your Local Market’ event. The initiative aimed to give local young talent the opportunity to sell their products or showcase their businesses. Stalls ranged from modern clothing to baking and children’s toys – and we at the museum were asked if we wanted to take part too.
It was a brilliant chance for the museum’s Youth Panel to get stuck into aspects of a museum-run event, and they were essential in making sure the event had social media coverage, a striking stall design and for the event to run smoothly on the day. The activity on the stall itself was managed by myself, a museum learning volunteer and Museum Studies masters student at the University of Westminster. I designed the object handling and smelling activity using the museum’s handling collection as part of my Masters’ major project. The aim was to get people talking about their memories of brands from the collection and then encourage them to visit the museum with a complimentary 2 for 1 voucher. In some cases the museum has found that locals from the area around the museum aren’t aware it exists, so the stall was an excellent way to market the museum to an audience that wasn’t visiting the museum.
Altogether the day was hugely successful, and thanks to some surprisingly sunny English weather there were lots of visitors and a good amount of footfall past the stall. Visitors really engaged with the smelling activity in particular, which was four mystery boxes containing pungent smelling but iconic objects from the handling collection: Lifebuoy soap, Oxo cubes, Gucci perfume and Surf washing powder. Even if the visitors were tourists who did not recognise the quintessentially British products, it was a lighthearted guessing game and got many people interested in the rest of the handling collection on display. For others, it was a ‘way in’ for passersby who might not have stopped to have a chat otherwise, and often led to interesting conversations about their memories of the smells, which we asked if they would like to write on a post-it note:
“Lifebuoy Soap – memories of being scrubbed and my skin red and sore for days!”
“Oxo soup’. Boiling water on a cube and white sliced dunked in it – the first ever cup-a-soup!!”
We also got some great feedback from visitors who weren’t expecting to be able to handle the collection, and were encouraged to then visit the museum.
“It was a trip back. Brilliant. Well Done – Paul”
The event now organised, with a few friendly volunteers, is an interesting outreach activity that would be fairly simple for the museum to try again. It is a great way for the museum to advertise Robert Opie’s fantastic collection (plus a few fun facts about Munchies and Bird’s Custard!) to the local community and allow the public to handle and engage with it more fully.
The Learning team would like to thank Jess and the Youth Panel for all their hard work creating a fantastic event, engaging with over 100 members of the public with the Museum collection.