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Shopping Bags -
Infinite Design Solutions
for an Everyday Product


On view at the Main Library
April 15 - June 15, 2006

Selected by William J. Dane
Keeper of Prints, Posters and Works of Art on Paper

Click here for a larger image.

From April 15 through June 15, 2006, The Newark Public Library will be showing well over 100 shopping bags selected from a collection which now tops out at over 1,000 bags actively assembled over the past quarter of a century. The bags include the great designs of the 1970s, when the demand for bags became an international marketing custom. This is the seventh display at the Library, and is in response to wide interest from the general public for this portable and popular item of fascination by our growing consumer marketplace in malls and boutiques around the world.

Click here for a larger image.

Some of the visual themes on the bags are directly related to specialized interests, such as music, food and drink, books, museums, and seasons. Upscale shops featuring deluxe merchandise are displayed from well-loved sources in London, Paris, Rome and Manhattan’s Fifth and Madison Avenues. International stores are further represented by bags from Japan, Korea, China, the Ukraine, Mexico, Australia, and major merchandise outlets across Europe and North America. There are selected bags from New Jersey sources, along with now redundant department stores such as Bamberger’s, Woolworth’s and the much missed Hahnes on Broad Street, Newark. The expanding museum world is well represented, as well as a grouping of miniature bags for dollhouses and very tiny bags for deluxe items of purchase such as new jewelry and watches.

Click here for a larger image.

Usually made of paper, the shopping bags of today are laminated, embossed, hot stamped and even laser cut. They are shaped as squares, rectangles, triangles and hexagons. There would appear to be no limit to the application of creative formats. Handles are essential and they are most often cut out of the bag itself and always near the top, but strong string, twine, colorful ribbons and even metal linked chains sometimes appear. The new bags on display include several with pockets on the front of the bag, with a greeting card stuck into the pocket so that the card is already provided to the customer. Automobile images appear on some new bags almost as if the buyer can tuck a new car into the bag and take it home on the spot. Design elements include all-over patterns and blazing logos so you do not forget the buying expedition and exactly which stores were visited. Many of the Library’s bags came as gifts from people who just could not discard the functional items and tucked them in a drawer or closet for possible use in the future. Other donors have traveled around the globe and brought back and donated the small treasures they gathered up with the general idea of giving them to the Library. The popularity of the bags is amazing and touches on the sensitive area of wanderlust, the excitement of visiting new places and meeting new people, and the acquisition of great and small souvenir items plus family celebrations such as birthdays and holidays when gifts are happily purchased and exchanged with loved ones with warm memories of group and individual nostalgia and warm affection all around. The bags are lasting memories of so many good happenings and owners want very much to retain a physical souvenir of a joyous occasion.

This colorful, contemporary-interest show is open during regular Library hours and is free to the public. The show was gathered together by William J. Dane, Keeper of Prints, Posters and Works of Art on Paper at the Library with the hope that the shopping bags will provide a happy and educational opportunity to children and well as adults curious about the history of these contemporary design products.

For additional information, please call 973-733-7745.


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Newark, NJ 07101