Then there was that time that we went to the Bakelite museum…
Yes, I’m serious.
Whilst driving through Somerset, Liz and I stopped in at the odd asparagus farm and suchlike, and as we drove past one road we saw a sign pointing to “Bakelite Museum“. It was the source of much levity, but it stirred within me that great passion for crap musea, and having already tackled the Cumberland Pencil Museum, the Museum of Mechanical Music, and the famous Wimbledon Sewing Machine Museum, I couldn’t resist begging Liz to take the turnoff on the way back.
The museum – in an old millhouse – boasts the finest and largest collection of vintage plastics in the United Kingdom.
I’ll readily confess that my interest in Bakelite – one of the world’s more popular and versatile thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resins – is eclipsed by my interest in many other topics, however I had to admire the chap’s tenacity. Every square inch of shelf space was taken up by objects made of, or comprising some element of, the substance.
You could see the development of aesthetic and optimism of design of many of the items, and that plastic was a compound that represented leaps forward into the future. However it was also a bit weird the way they’d grouped items together in colour groups, such that some shelves had hundreds of identical items arranged in a colour shift.
The whole scene was very reminiscent of the premises in Dimboola, Australia known as “Bill Barry’s” – the guy had assembled a massive shed full of stuff from a variety of garage sales and whatnot, such that it’s entirely possible he had one of everything ever produced (and possibly a larger collection of Bakelite, now I think of it). I can’t find any blog references to it, and did pause to wonder during news of the recent floods in south-eastern Australia whether a massive flotilla of random household crap was dumped into the Southern Ocean. What was I saying?
We’d chosen to visit on a less-populated day – however I would imagine that on really busy days all you can hear throughout the building would be peals of “Oooooooh, we used to have one of those!”, in between the foot-shuffling and occasional apology for bumping into other patrons.
So, in summary: loads of Bakelite in Somerset. If that’s your thing.
The rest of the photo set from this unforgettable visit is here, if you’ve got the time and the inclination.