Since the Industrial Revolution manufacturers have asked “How can I be sure of a permanent and growing market for my product?” In response, they developed a three part answer: technological, psychological, and planned obsolescence. In the first, manufacturers introduced technological changes to their products. This new technology found an eager market in consumers who sought a different way to accomplish daily tasks. In the case of psychological obsolescence, manufacturers adjusted the look of products. Careful and targeted advertising then led consumers to desire goods that changed in style rather than function. With planned obsolescence manufacturers built their products with a limited lifespan so that consumers would need to purchase replacements. The result is what we see today as a 'throw-away' society.

Drawing from Museum London’s extensive material culture collection, this exhibition explores how technological, psychological, and planned obsolescence impacted the household goods that Londoners bought from the late nineteenth through to the late twentieth centuries. For example, how did changes in the technology of doing laundry impact this activity? How did manufacturers of products, such as sewing machines and vacuum cleaners, convince consumers to buy their product over a similar product by another manufacturer? And, looking at home electronics, how have material and design choices caused products to fail or to no longer be operable?

The exhibition will feature objects both strange and familiar, opening a window to the distant and not-so-distant past.