A history of consumer goods packaging in 2000 objects

These days we use the word innovation as shorthand for doing something new, interesting and useful. In doing so, we usually tend to forget that objects, ideas, systems, which we today consider outdated and old-fashioned, were innovative in the beginning. Take packaging, for example. When packaging arrived in India during the British Raj, the package itself was an object of desire as much as the product. Remember those tin cookie boxes where our grandmothers used to store their jewelleries or los

30 Jun 2017 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

As plastic and paper packaging replaced tin, the package itself lost its utility beyond its key goal — to protect the product.

This is why the Manjushree Packaging Heritage Museum, located in Bengaluru, marking the mile stone of  15th anniversary is a site to celebrate and treasure.  Set up and run by Manjushree Technopack, the museum houses 2000 now-forgotten packages, ranging from tins of Parry’s Nutrine, Amulspray and Lactogen, Philips radio, VAT 69 bottle, Army hipflask, Agfa camera in a leather case, ancient Pepsi and Coca Cola bottles, to wooden cigar boxes.

There are also gramophone records of Lata Mangeshkar packed in two-colour printed paper board, tin case of Cadbury Fry chocolate, huge hot cases with space for hot coal, velvet lined cutlery kit and lab tool cases, metal body cameras cased in leather, and wood finish radios, among others.

Other vintage items include a Cyprus clay powder box from the 1940s, vanity kits introduced by Air India for their air hostesses in 1965, and old liquor glass bottles in different shapes. 

The museum’s latest acquisition is an old metal gun case, used to keep Tipu Sultan’s rifle. This is also the oldest item in the collection and it was bought from an antique shop in Bengaluru.

The exhibits are curated from across the world like a made-in-England duplicator (what is called a photocopy machine) in an iron casing, wooden cutlery boxes with velvet lining, old style hair dryers packed in cartons, radios in wooden casing, cold drink cans, can be useful to understand packaging and it does attract many packaging experts.

A brainchild of Vimal Kedia, managing director, Manjushree Technopack, established in 2003 as part of its packaging innovation division, the collection offers a unique perspective into the gradual evolution of packaging material as well as changing consumer needs.

A trip through the 2000 items at the museum and you can witness the change before your own eyes. Beginning from wood casing in the 1900s, packaging moved to metal, then to glass, paper, cardboard and finally to plastic containers today. Manjushree has added a range of musical instruments to their collection. They now also house vintage clarinets, harmoniums and a 70-year-old gramophone in wooden casing.  Japanese electronics were very popular in India for a long time and musical gadgets were no exception. The museum now houses a 40-year-old Sansui record player as well, apart from nd a unique 3-in-1 music player that has a radio, cassette player and a record player. 

And, talking about innovation, did you know Nescafe offered gold plated spoons during its early days of promotion in the Middle East, or that personal care items were showcased in hard casing with velvet and silk finishing in the interiors?

“Most of the items have been collected through friends and relatives. Whenever I have travelled across the country, I have searched for packages in old warehouses and shops. Smaller towns and villages are the best places to find such items and my visits to remote towns in Assam yielded many such objects,” Kedia says.