What?: Formerly known as the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, and now more catchily just the Museum of Brands, this little-known Notting Hill treasure is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of stuff that will make you say “oh my God, will you look at this?” a thousand times over. One of my favourite unexpected gems to date, the Museum of Brands has been at the bottom of the must-do list since I can’t remember when, largely on the basis that you’re not allowed to take photos inside the museum for copyright reasons. Annoying, yes, but with the usual pressure to photograph everything in sight removed, you can truly immerse yourself in this incredible merch-filled timewarp. The best photo opps are outside anyway, in front of the amazing new mural that surrounds the museum’s entrance, and the lack of photos of this place make it all the more intriguing since you have basically no idea what you’re getting yourself into.
My expectations were actually pretty low with this museum, which made discovering its brilliance all the more joyful. Our starting point was the spacious and newly refurbished cafe for an apple juice, oat milk latte and cookies, and a fruitless attempt at stuffing some pea puree in the baby’s face, followed by a family toilet trip, which all sounds pretty basic but you’d be surprised how few of London’s smaller museums have cafes – or baby changing for that matter – and it’s always nice to begin a museum feeling comfortable and caffeinated, toting a happy toddler and a nice, fragrant baby.
The museum route begins in the Time Tunnel, which is actually more like the Time Channel Tunnel it’s so bloody long – but then I guess it would be since it houses more than 12,000 artefacts, dating from Victorian times to the present day. It all sounds pretty geeky but you don’t have to be an advertising exec to find this stuff interesting – you just have to be a human who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last few decades. Actually that’s not true – you could very easily have lived under a rock and still find this interesting. Babu has been on Earth less than four years and her cultural knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Waffle the Wonder Dog and she still found this interesting. The added bonus for kids is that everything is displayed in a floor-to-ceiling glass case, so you can pretty much just install a child of any developmental stage, be it toddling, crawling or rolling, somewhere in the tunnel and there will be something in their eye line that they can engage with. The presence of glass also means they can’t touch anything, which is also quite handy for low-intensity-parenting days (which is every day for me).
Once you’re done skipping excitedly from one display to the next going “Look, Cornflakes!” “Look, Spam!” “Look, Teen Pregnancy Barbie!” you can check out the remainder of the museum’s displays, which when we went included something to do with some kind of oil company – possibly Shell but really don’t quote me on that; an interactive area where you could draw or write your favourite brand on a postcard and then pin it on the wall (Babu drew a picture of herself under a rainbow instead, which could have been a reference to Pride or Skittles but I suspect it was probably neither); a big 1950s doll display that I may or may not have taken illicit photos of; and a massive fuck-off wall cabinet stuffed full of old radios. From what I can gather everything except the Time Tunnel and the radios is temporary, and there’s currently an environmentally friendly packaging exhibit happening, but there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of short-term exhibitions on the horizon. That’s ok though, the Time Tunnel is worth the trip alone.
Where?: Museum of Brands can be found at 111-117 Lancaster Road, W11, and is a two-minute walk from Ladbroke Grove Tube station.
Best Bits: The Time Tunnel, a thousand times the Time Tunnel.
Worst Bits: No bad bits really. Even the no-photo rule kind of worked out in the end.
Facilities: Baby changing, step-free access, cafe.
Price: £9 per adult; under-7s go free.
Would We Come Back?: Yes.
Babu checks out the wall mural outside the Museum of Brands.