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250 Years of Jigsaws - Exhibit opens 15 December 2016

Jigsaw exhibition

250 Years of Jigsaws

Christmas brings fun, entertainment and jigsaws, but is the tradition of a family gathering around a jigsaw disappearing? Christmas is a time when the family gets together for fun and games and a shared experience, but the tradition of a family gathering around a jigsaw is disappearing in favour of children preferring computer games and ipads.

A new exhibition celebrating 250 years of the jigsaw puzzle, the largest of its kind ever shown, will open at The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising on 15th December 2016 and will run until the end of April 2017.

The jigsaws in the exhibition reflect the social history of Britain over the past 250 years, celebrating royal occasions and exhibitions, new forms of transport and technology, wars and battles, film stars and radio personalities, television programmes and pop stars.

The exhibition features 250 jigsaws dating back to 1766 when the earliest  ‘dissected puzzles’ (as they were known) - were made by mapmakers as educational aids for children of the upper classes.

Initially, jigsaw puzzles were hand made from wood and only the rich could afford them. It was during the early 20th century that cardboard jigsaws were introduced making them more affordable. As there was rationing of card in the Second World War jigsaws became smaller and the card thinner, but they were seen as moral boosters for the nation.

When in the early 20th century the more economic cardboard jigsaw began to take over from wooden ones, it wasn’t long before promotional examples made their appearance amongst an increasing variety of advertising gimmicks. A further hundred examples of this marketing medium are also on display.


The Exhibition includes:

• One of the earliest jigsaws featuring a map of Britain dated 1766.
• A battleship puzzle dating from 1798, complete with wooden box.
• Jigsaw of The Great Exhibition of 1851.
• Wolseley car promotional jigsaw, 1920s.
• A morale boosting Winston Churchill jigsaw, WW2.
• Andy Pandy jigsaws from the 1950s.
• Coronation Street and Bay City Rollers jigsaws from the 60s and 70s.
• Beatles and Rolling Stones jigsaws from the 60s.
• Road safety jigsaw that helps children’s awareness of crossing the road, 1950s.
• Jigsaws from present day featuring Frozen and Dora the Explorer.

The jigsaws in this exhibition come from the Robert Opie Collection, which has been assembled over the past fifty years. Robert has had a lifetime fascination with the jigsaw puzzle. He often refers to his study of consumer history as a vast jigsaw, where each piece adds to the picture of understanding how society has evolved.

Related activities:

Family Friendly Activities:
Visitors to the Museum can build their own jigsaw puzzle, with ‘The Brands that Built Britain’ in the Museum’s Branding Hall. The jigsaw features some of our favourite brands that are still around today. Take a trip down memory lane as you piece together the vintage packaging of brands such as Oxo, Kellogg’s, Marmite and McVities.

Meet Museum founder Robert Opie, Sunday 22nd January, 2017
Robert Opie, director and founder of the Museum of Brands, tells the story of how the Museum started and looks forward to welcoming questions. 

The Museum of Brands provides a fascinating insight into how everyday lives have changed over the past 180 years through the evolution of consumer brands - household packaging, toys, magazines, newspapers, technology, travel, fashion and design. It’s a thought provoking experience, visually stimulating, and for many an emotional and nostalgic reunion with their past.

The morning talk starts at 12.30pm and the afternoon talk at 2pm.
Free with paid admission.