Why I opened this museum

It’s Friday.

It’s five to five.

It’s… gone.

Or nearly gone.

This is a small virtual museum of the recently vanished.

We might have just lived through the world’s fastest decades for supersession; things arrived and vanished again pretty darned quickly while I was growing up. It is sometimes said that the world has always been like this: changing fast, but I don’t think it has. I read somewhere that the price of a pint of ale in England was the same in 1300 as in 1400, which doesn’t strike me as an example of rapid revolution.

Developments I take for granted weren’t around when my grandparents were born (and I’m not THAT old): houses with electric lighting, the motor car, powered flight, objects sent into space, the television, even broadcast radio, or the BBC itself. On the other hand, some technical marvels had come and already gone by the time I turned up: the silent film, for example, and the airship — which could still potentially sail gracefully over the Atlantic, but was shunned after the world saw the Hindenburg burst into flames and crash to the ground in New Jersey in May 1937. (Oh, the humanity).

Some long-established things have disappeared while I have been here: telegrams — and surely the end of the pay phone and the Yellow Pages can’t be far away — antimacassars, slam-door trains and capital punishment in Britain (although there are plenty who would welcome that return).

Some things that only arrived during my lifetime disappeared in the blink of an eye: Polaroids, Concorde, eight-tracks and Ceefax. (There are also things which disappeared and came back: Voila! Vinyl is the new mp3.)

I set up this blog when I was moving house and gleefully tossing into a skip everything I wouldn’t take to the new place because a) it no longer worked (one VCR) b) I couldn’t find the bits to make it work (the other VCR) c) I’d never need it again (the photograph negatives; I’d take a digital image of the positives if I needed to share); or d) I couldn’t remember what it was.

Then I decided to at least make a small memorial of some of the things that had been in my life before they vanished for ever and I couldn’t even take digital photographs of them any more.

Feel free to let me know in the comments of more examples that you’ve noticed in your own lifetime. Bus conductors? Black-and-white television programmes? Social housing…?

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