Friday, 6 January 2017

Posters at MoDA

MoDA’s Collections Assistant, Dorian Knight, has recently been working on the museum’s collection of posters. These objects are currently undergoing documentation, conservation and rehousing and will shortly be available for display, loan and further study.

Ever since their birth in Paris in 1869, posters have offered a window into history. Following the Press Law of 1881 posters were given immunity from censorship, thereby documenting propaganda, pop culture, protest and revolution ever since. They also developed as an art form, posters plastered on streets came to be known as ‘the poor man’s gallery.’ Additionally they brought reading into the public domain ensuring literacy was no longer in the hands of a few private and wealthy individuals. Posters have also developed outside the West and are intertwined with histories as diverse as West African Vodoo practises and Palestinian martyrdom.  Perhaps most famously posters have been used as a powerful means of advertising. In the present digital age their materiality still maintains an enduring hold on us, allowing mute walls to continue speaking.

The posters in the collection of the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture are mainly from   our Charles Hasler archive. Charles Hasler (1908 – 1992) was a Graphic Designer and Typographer. He worked as a Graphic Designer on several high profile campaigns such as the Festival of Britain, the British Transport Commisssion and the Ministry of Information and he also collected reference material voraciously. This includes works by many of the big names in mid-century graphic design, placing Hasler’s collection at the centre of London’s graphic design scene.  The posters below include some of my personal highlights from the Hasler poster archive, both works he designed and some he collected. 


This small poster is from a Ministry of Information display, collected by Hasler. The Ministry of Information was set up the day after World War II commenced and was the Government department responsible for publicity and propaganda. This poster is a chilling representation of what was going on in Nazi Germany, showing two young children holding swastika flags and giving the Nazi salute. Indeed during World War II poster art experienced a resurgence as governments circulated emotionally gripping posters to inform and recruit civilians to the war effort.


This poster, designed by Charles Hasler, advertises an exhibition at Euston Station on the history of transport. What is particularly interesting is that it depicts the Euston Arch, built in 1837 and inspired by Roman architecture. The Arch was removed in the 1960s, despite strong protests by prominent figures like the poet John Betjeman. This poster quietly documents a part of London that no longer exists.


This poster is for the British Transport Commission, designed by Hasler. It contains a list of charges for various items left on railways. Although this may seem to be a mundane topic it provides a fascinating insight into what people may have been carrying with them on trains at the time. Highlights include a ‘Tuck Box’, a ‘Gun Case’, a ‘Handcart’ and an ‘Ice –Cream Barrow’!

If you are interested in our poster collection then follow us on Facebook (@MuseumofDomesticDesignandArchitecture) and Twitter (@MoDAMuseum) to see more. 

Alternatively, book an appointment at MoDA by emailing and come and see these objects for yourselves. 

If you want to read more on the topic of posters, we recommend Elizabeth Guffey’s recently published ‘Posters: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2015)

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