Michael Heseltine and Cecil Parkinson

In the 1980’s Museum curators were urged to collect or record the ephemera of the 20th century; from shop window displays to skinhead hair styles, or Frankie says T-shirts.

Mr Oliver Green of the London Transport Museum, told a seminar at York Castle Museum that curators should argue for space to collect modern products, or should record them. “What is the point of telling kids in a museum how to make wattle and daub when they don’t know anything about reinforced concrete?”

Or, he could have added, politics in the 1980’s

Michael Heseltine
Michael Heseltine

Mr Green showed a CND placard which read: Michael Heseltine knows as much about defence as Cecil Parkinson knows about contraception.

Cecil Parkinson once Margaret Thatchers favourite was forced out of the public spotlight when it was disclosed that he had a child as a result of an extra-marital affair at a time when Mrs Thatcher was advocating a return to Victorian standards. It would be nice to have that in a museum he suggested, since nobody would know who Cecil Parkinson was in a few years time. Or indeed Michael Heseltine.

Pecil Parkinson
Cecil Parkinson

His other suggestions for collecting included credit cards, Green Shield stamps, John and Cheryl windscreens stickers, bill hoardings and fly posters. “How many museums have recorded youth culture, down to details on how many lines skinheads put in their hair?”

Mr Frank Atkinson, curator of the North of England open air museum at Beamish, Co Durham, said that museums should stop waiting passively for material to come in and go out to collect it unselectively.

An active collection at Beamish used the slogan, ‘You offer it and we will have it’ and filled an old army camp, including the barrack square, with material. Each museum, he suggested, should set up a national collection of one class of material, shop fittings, or cars or graffiti.


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