Object Focus: Publicity, Packaging and Postcards

Wine Labels in the Charles Hasler Collection (CH/5/4/5).

Wine Labels in the Charles Hasler Collection (CH/5/4/5).

In early 2013 we began a documentation and conservation project focusing on a part of MoDA’s collection made up of  little bits of detail.  The Charles Hasler Collection contains (amongst other things) scraps of wine labels, books with missing pages, old restaurant menus and envelopes. This reference material from the Charles Hasler collection is both a Museum registrar’s worse nightmare (bags and bags of little bits of paper!) and a fantastic source of inspiration and information about graphic design.

Charles Hasler (1908-1992) was a graphic designer who worked from the mid-1930s to the late-1980s. He was involved in many high-profile exhibitions, displays, poster campaigns and book publishing in Britain. His work includes wartime exhibitions like ‘Make Do and Mend’, the 1951 Festival of Britain and some Transport for London posters.

Hasler was an expert in typography and printing techniques (including photography) and to a lesser extent book binding. MoDA acquired the bulk of Hasler’s archive in the late 1990s. Other parts of his archive went to the University of Brightons’ Design History Research Centre Archive and also the Reading University Library’s Special Collection.

An Avid Collector

A range of packaging materials in the Charles Hasler Collection, CH/5/4/1.

Hasler was also a passionate collector of graphic design source material. This included greetings cards, cigarette cards, journals, invitations, books, exhibition catalogues, sales catalogues, prints, packaging, articles, books, business records, photographs, photocopies, manuscripts, slides, newspaper clippings and journals and trade literature.

The aim of our current documentation and conservation project is to make this material more accessible to students and the public. We will be spending the next month counting, listing, photographing and conserving 1000+ objects which range from photographs and flour bags to first edition books and postcards.

Identifying Priorities

Decorative envelopes are one example of the printed ephemera in the Charles Hasler Collection (CH/5/4/2/4).

Curators, conservators and registrars have to be pragmatic and focus on what they consider the most significant items for documentation and conservation projects. It’s fair to say folders of old envelopes and end papers can fall to the bottom of the list.

At first glance some of the material in Hasler’s collection can look like little, insignificant bits of scrap.  But you just have to look closer to see that, taken as a whole, it is a special collection of material that tells us a lot about graphic design and provides a fantastic visual resource for today’s designers.

Update

The documentation and conservation work we carried out in 2013 subsequently led to the publication of a book about the Charles Hasler Collection, written by Jane Audas. It also meant that designers such as Yemi Awosile and others could use the collection as the source of their creative work.
 

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