The tin can came into existence after a competition started by Napoleon to find a way to carry basic food provisions for his troops. The invention of ear plugs was inspired by a story in Homer’s Odyssey. These, and many other titbits, can be found at the Science Museum’s new exhibition Hidden Heroes, created by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany and Hi-Cone.
The idea is to celebrate the everyday – the egg cartons, the paperclips and the rubber bands of our world that few people stop to think about in our fast-paced environment.
Each booth has a mixture of images by award-winning photographers, video clips and installations relating to a specific object, along with a description of its history. Over 30 objects sit alongside the images. It’s just a shame there aren’t more interactive elements to go with the arty installations. Special mention, however, goes to the adhesive tape section, which features an extraordinary poster by Mark Khaisman of a boxer made entirely of, you guessed it, tape.
The exhibition is small. Contemplating each mini-installation and reading every description will probably take up no more than 30 minutes. The amount of information packed into what is essentially a single corridor is, however, impressive. You will emerge at least partially better informed about the tiny aspects that make up our commercial world, and laden with fun facts to tell at the same time.
Ironically then, Hidden Heroes imitates the very objects that it exhibits – it’s a small part of something much larger, but still has enough on its own to intrigue.
Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things runs until 5 June 2012 and can be found on the 1st Floor of the Science Museum. Entrance £6/£3.50.
By Laura Cress