If you’re having trouble relating to mummies, dinosaurs, and ancient oil paintings, it’s time for a different kind of family museum trip. Head to the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, where history comes to life through the art of 100-year-old cosmetics, cans of Heinz Mock Turtle Soup, and weirdly menacing old toys.
Entering this quirky museum feels like climbing into an attic filled with centuries of retail memorabilia. The sole gallery — a winding time machine of a corridor — takes you on a journey through the history of the middle class that starts at the height of the Industrial Revolution and stretches all the way up to present day. Instead of focusing on big artistic or scientific achievements, the collection of everyday objects reveals how commerce, media, and design have shaped society and human experiences.
Witness the birth of souvenirs as you study tea tins decorated with portraits and floral borders to celebrate every royal occasion, from Queen Victoria’s jubilee to Charles and Diana’s wedding. See an old wooden vacuum cleaner–it took two people to operate–and the first aerosol space sodas, which were introduced by NASA and Pepsi to allow astronauts to weightlessly sip cola in the Space Shuttle (they were a spectacular flop). Watch your kids’ brows arch with disbelief at the sight of the first Mickey Mouse board games and eerie marionettes that their great-grandparents may have played with. Feel those pangs of nostalgia as you spot the elegant Barbie dolls and illustrated Star Wars games that thrilled you in your own childhood.
Time flies as you giggle at the jocular postcards from ages past and admire the vintage posters. Models’ hairstyles shift from bobs, pony-tails, beehives, layered looks, to bobs again. Fads have a habit of changing, but humor holds firm in its cure-all capacity. You’re generally impressed by the cheeky jokes you find in the Valentines of generations past (whom you had previously dismissed as being “square”), and one card in particular tells of laughter in the face of adversity: a WWI-era ration card … for kisses. You’re rescued from your misty-eyed moment by a comforting realization: Your favorite chocolate candy has been around longer than you have, and probably always will be.