Information evolution

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A Ribble poster from the 1950s, drawing people’s attention to the destination, not the journey. Note the blank space for a fare, allowing the same posters to be used in different locations. MoTGM COLLECTION

Jonathan Welch takes a brief look through the huge archive of publicity material held by the Museum of Transport Greater Manchester

We’ve all seen those famous railways posters of a different era, haven’t we? The ones that depict the luxury or elegance of travel, the beauty of the destination or the power of the engine. The distinct style has made sure they remain popular as art so many years, decades even, after they were on display.

But what about the bus industry? I was recently given the privilege of a guided tour of some of the behind the scenes areas of the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester, where the museum’s Paul Williams showed me some of the usually-hidden archive of publicity. The store room contains everything from art-deco posters to FirstGroup corporate timetable booklets, and from fearsome-looking fare charts to humble cove panel adverts.

It raised a number of questions, including whether the industry is truly better at promoting itself these days, or whether it’s just got more technology to do it with, regardless of quality. There are some great examples from the past, and some terrible examples from now. And vice versa of course. The past isn’t always that wonderful place that nostalgia remembers it to be.

A stern warning against fare evasion for Manchester passengers. MoTGM COLLECTION

Communicating well

“When it comes to publicity from any era,” Paul said as he leafed through a drawer of historic posters, “there is the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s easy to say ‘let’s look at the good ones’ and forget about what we can learn from the bad ones. We have in our collection some horrific examples of information transfer – or lack of it.”


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