ePoster Gallery 2/2021
We all need to refresh and revitalise our bodies from time to time. That’s why we’re attracted to water where we can dive in and cool off. In urban centres, organised swimming took off in the 1930s with the creation of numerous public baths. These enabled men and women from all walks of life to enjoy swimming either separately or together. This period saw a boom in advertising for the newly built bathing facilities on riversides and lakeshores. The selected posters focus in part on the architecture of Swiss baths, many of which are now listed structures. But they also frequently depict the androgynous, toned bodies of women focused on their activities. Today, the pleasure of swimming is second nature to us and hardly requires advertising.
Drinks to relax and revitalise the body date back to ancient Roman times. The posters on display represent eight decades of Swiss consumer posters. The promotion of both new and established products that promise refreshment continues to this day.
In a brief interview, Bettina Richter explains her role as Curator at the Museum für Gestaltung and shares some fascinating insights into the Zurich poster collection.
What does a collection curator’s work involve?
Every museum collection involves the same basic tasks. The first is to expand the inventory through regular additions, and look after and preserve the individual objects. The objects in the collection also have to be scientifically catalogued and made publicly accessible in a suitable form.
In terms of the poster collection, I am responsible for the collection policy – in other words, the expansion of inventory according to a set collection concept. Each year, the poster collection grows by between 2,000 and 3,000 pieces. I am the editor of the publication series Poster Collection, each annual edition of which presents posters from the collection by a particular artist or based around a particular theme. I also curate regular exhibitions in various formats, which introduce the full diversity of the poster as a medium while also contributing to the history of graphic design.
With a team of photographers, documentalists and restorers, we photograph the posters selected for a collection and catalogue them in a database according to academic criteria. Depending on their condition, they are restored and stored for the long term in our archive, which complies with the latest conservation guidelines. As soon as a poster has gone through this complex input process, it is available for research by third parties. We lend our posters to museums around the world and send images to international publications on request.
What is the profile of the Zurich poster collection?
The poster collection is the only international collection of its kind in Switzerland. The oldest posters date back to around 1870, when the first ‘illustrated posters’, in the modern sense, emerged. Naturally, there is a geographical aspect to the collection, with a strong focus on Swiss posters. But thematically, there is no limit on the collection; we collect cultural, consumer and tourism posters, as well as political and social posters right up to the present day. The collection documents developments in the global history of poster and graphic design, but its role is also to provide evidence of everyday cultural change.
How do you select objects and get them into the collection?
In addition to international and Swiss designers, we have cultural institutions, printing companies and the Allgemeine Plakatgesellschaft APG|SGA regularly offering us posters for inclusion in the archive, which I carefully examine according to our collection profile. To supplement the historical inventory, we often manage to acquire rare items through auction houses and private collectors. And we also get extensive donations through bequests. For reasons of time, I prefer active poster acquisition in the context of exhibitions or publication projects. This involves visits to Swiss and international studios and archives.