I was given an opportunity to celebrate the nostalgic power of vintage packaging and oldschool graphic design when I stumbled into a hidden gem while working on a website project for a client.

Tucked away within a factory on an industrial area of Invercargill, you wouldn’t expect to find something so interesting inside. In a re-creation of a run down shed are displayed hundreds of items, from vintage shaving equipment to biscuit tins and matchboxes. It’s a well-preserved history of packaging, branding, advertising and consumption that provides an insight of past times.

In the same vein as the famous Bill Richardson Transport World this little treasure trove of retro design and memories captures the imagination – especially to this long-in-the-tooth graphic designer.

There are shelves upon shelves full to the brim with oddities and wonders alike, where every corner I turned lead me into into a different decade.

I saw cosmetics from the late 1890s, First World War shaving products, Marcovitch cigarette tins from the 1930’s, Marmite jars, cordials and matchboxes from the 1940s, a 1970s beer bottle and around 2,000 other items that opened my eyes to the way we lived and shopped.

Browsing through the many items on show took me back to childhood days of rummaging through the magical mystery tour that was my granddad’s shed. Where finding long-forgotten vintage boxes of matches hidden behind rusty old tins of something or other beneath his work bench was a summer holiday adventure. Or playing a version of lucky dip where I would reach into the darkest depths of my grandma’s pantry to bring out bottles and jars of ‘malt’ or ‘molasses’ that were decades past their use-by-date. I’m sure the original designers of these vintage labels never imaged that people would look at them and feel a fond connection to memories of their childhood.

Casting my eyes over the shelves was like observing the history of consumer culture. I got to see how well-known brands evolved through a creative use of packaging and advertising. It’s was all there… the brands and packs, posters and signs, fads and fashions. Evocative and inspiring, a kaleidoscope of images and iconic brands.

There is a strong local flavour to the items featured with a vast range of Strang products (the inventor of instant coffee) and locally brewed beers and biscuits. Indeed it is probably the closest Southland has to a museum devoted to the history of packaging and advertising since way back when.