As humans we’ve always left our mark, to show to the world that ‘I was here’. In our youth, these mementos take the form of a pin badge that signals our musical allegiance on proud display on our favourite jacket, or that crumpled up poster we tore off the wall at a rave that now hangs as part of a collage on our bedroom wall. The ephemera of our youth give a physicality to our favourite nights, funniest stories and life changing moments.
Photos courtesy of the Museum of Youth Culture
From rare men’s clothing, to rave flyers, we speak to some keen collectors about how they got started.
Most of the mementos were never built to last, whether that be a flimsy photocopied flyer or tour band t-shirt, yet we hold on to them for years. Over time, the tears and stains only add to the history of that moment, hidden away in a shoe box we take out to reminisce with friends or show our family. Those that didn’t pick one up at the time can scour Ebay for a copy, often with a hefty price tag.
At the Museum of Youth Culture, we started working with ephemera to help us better tell the stories behind the photographs in our collection. Whilst a photograph captures the moment, ephemera places it in time, from design features to long-lost venues and defunct phone numbers.
Through our Grown up in Britain campaign, people are now donating their precious ephemera for the future Museum. But how do people come to collect beyond those personal mementos? We spoke to three collectors from the Museum of Youth Culture about how they built their collections.
Chelsea Berlin, Rave Art flyer collection
Some people keep photographs as a reminder of events they have attended, I keep and collect the ephemera and memorabilia. Not only do they evoke a solid memory of the event, the sights, sounds and visuals, but the graphic content and vibe is most often captured in the flyer, poster or memorabilia associated with it. I find those items inspiring, individually and collectively, an art form itself.
Whilst a photo captures a moment - being with the people I shared it with - it could have been taken anywhere, slotted into any other event, especially as my crew were always around me and me them. Having an item from a particular event, especially those one-off events, also provides historical reference, social context and a visual trigger which transports me back as if it were yesterday or I was there once more.
It’s akin to smelling something when you walk down a street, being instantly transported to a different time. The collected items in my archive create that same sense of ‘Proust Effect’ you get from such an occurrence. A flyer, patch, badge, poster, or other item of collected material and memorabilia reminds me I was there, who I was with, what times we had…
Roger Burton, the Horse Hospital clothing collection
I guess I’m what some would term an obsessive collector, and it mainly stems from my love of good design. It all started with farm machinery lapel badges when I was about 9 years old, which led to exotic American cigarette packets, and their inspirational logos. Then as a teenager it was all about style magazines because of my passionate love affair with mod Culture.
I started seriously collecting and wearing vintage menswear from the 1930s - 1950s after mod ended in 1966, and as a reaction to hippie clothes, which at the time I loathed. Fifty years later and with an archive of over 20,000 important street fashion garments, I still collect but these days I’m much more interested in unearthing rarities, whether it be clothing, music, films, art, architecture or people. I love the detective work involved in researching stuff that little is known about.
Alice Ridgway, The Rusty Pin badge collection
As a collector of vintage badges, I’m part of a younger generation of collectors hunting down material culture from a scene before our time.
Original music memorabilia has increased dramatically in popularity. Cult band t-shirts and rare concert posters are particularly prevalent. I think this is partly a response to today’s mass-produced consumer culture, and also a backlash against the modern music industry churning out hits.
An original punk badge has a history of over 40 years. It’s been worn by a loyal owner on a leather jacket and hibernating in a box in the attic since. Rediscovering one of these badges at a car boot sale means it can have a new lease of life.
An old badge has age spots and some rust which I can’t help find nostalgic and charming. I also collect badges of my favourite contemporary bands and hope that a new owner will cherish them in years to come.