A step inside the Archivist collections with Madeleine Allardice

Wednesday 3rd February 2022

Phillumenist /fɪˈluːmənɪst/ (noun)

A collector or lover or matchboxes.

In my parents’ sitting room is a silver cigarette case that once belonged to my great grandfather. Should you open it you would see, written in proudly in purple felt tip: the grand total of my pitiful bottle cap collection. It was a very short-lived hobby, but the thrill of finding objects, giving them meaning by bringing them home, and the pride at looking at my six (rather unremarkable) bottle caps, has never quite left.

A true phillumenist might wince at the Archivist matchbox archives – they are not stored in acetate paper or put away in an ordered fashion, but instead they are strewn around the house. Whether it be on the kitchen dresser, in piles across desks, or most recently, I opened an old jewellery box only to find a beautiful Kangaroo label instead of my missing earrings.

So no, we cannot claim to be neatest of preservers, but we are enthralled by their magic.

They are small enough to fit in your pocket, practical, charming, and unique. Every matchbox tells its own story.

There was a time where every bar or hotel had its own label and its gives me a thrill to picture people pocketing them and taking them home, so people would know that they were cool enough to frequent the right bars. The ultimate status symbol.

But it isn’t just the bustling bars where matchboxes were found.

There is a matchbox from the space race with Soviet dogs whizzing round the moon, labels from India with colourful pictures of Vishnu and Ganesha, Japanese labels covered in dancing dragons, and then there are my personal favourites, a health and safety collection of Czechoslovakian matchboxes which warn of children sledging into the road or falling out of trees.

There is no rule as to what you can put on a matchbox, no design Dogma you must follow. Anything goes. Perhaps that’s why we love them. Archivist has always been a space for eclectics.

Curious to see what designs we sell that are inspired by vintage boxes? Check out our favourite collection below.


Inspired by the archives