London’s Design Museum has become the latest institution to start collecting newsworthy items and pop-culture icons, buying a Rainbow Flag, a David Bowie CD and a Frisbee.
The new acquisitions are the first since the museum moved to its new home in Kensington, west London last year.
Part of the reason for the move to larger premises was to allow it to expand the Design Museum Collection, which the museum describes as “an important record of the key designs that have shaped the modern world”.
The latest acquisitions reflect a broader shift in design curation strategies in the museum world, pioneered by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, towards collecting objects of cultural relevance alongside totems of industrial manufacturing.
Among the new acquisitions is the Rainbow Flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 in San Francisco, which has become a widely recognised symbol for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The move follows MoMA’s acquisition of a Rainbow Flag in 2015.
Objects from the Design Museum’s latest Designs of the Year awards are also included, such as David Bowie’s Blackstar album designed by Jonathan Barnbrook and the Space Cup coffee cup, designed to be used by astronauts in zero gravity.
The museum has additionally acquired a number of objects from its current exhibition, California: Designing Freedom, which explores the influence of the West Coast state on global culture and technology.
These include the original Frisbee by Wham-O Frisbee made in 1958; the 1977 Atari VCS/2600 home video game console; all the back issues of the Whole Earth Catalog, the counterculture magazine bible published by Stewart Brand between 1968 and 1972; and a complete set of copies of Emigre, a visual communication magazine published between 1984 and 2005 by Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko.
The museum has also added an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to its collection.
“The museum collects objects that help to explain what design is to a non-specialist audience,” it says on its website.
“In addition to looking after key examples of design from the past, we acquire objects relating to the process of design, from tools, drawings and prototypes, speculative designs and finished production models.”
In 2013 west London institution the V&A introduced its Rapid Response Collection, buying objects as soon as they become newsworthy rather than waiting for them to acquire classic status.
Objects acquired as part of the collection include a Pussyhat from this year’s Washington Women’s March and a burkini in 2016.
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