The Trade Literature Collection is one of the largest and most diverse and includes literature from thousands of companies illustrating scientific, medical, technological, engineering and social developments and interactions.

Trade Literature Collection

The term ‘Trade Literature’ refers to manufacturers’ or distributors’ ephemera, so often forgotten about and thrown away, that influence every area of our lives.  A Trade Literature Collection is a continuously growing, unique resource which can be used to study a variety of subjects including history of science, medicine or engineering; or to investigate sociological questions about how we interact with science and technology and how it affects our cultural structure at specific historical periods. 

The collection includes promotional, advertising, company, professional or customer related items, such as posters, brochures, manuals, correspondence, trade magazines, company newsletters, trade fair and trade exhibition catalogues. Items may come from any and every company that provides a product or a service, regardless of size of company, how obscure the product is or how short-lived the format was.

Examples from this collection include technical manuals for cars, brochures for home wares, trade magazines for construction and engineering industries and advertising materials for practically everything a person would want to buy in their lifetime – from Thomas Crapper toilets or Harrod’s cocaine pastilles (from the Victorian era) to a Rolls Royce 1925 New Phantom.

The collection includes items that can give visitors to both our Library and Museum an enhanced experience by offering more detailed and technical information about manufactured products or exhibits.  For instance, the collection includes examples of promotional and technical literature for televisions, radios, stereos and much more which can enhance Museum exhibitions such as ‘Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-Tech Britain’, showing how domestic and entertainment technology has changed within society after World War Two.

The Trade Literature collection is located at our Wroughton library and is in the process of being listed, in the meantime please contact us with any queries.  

The Chelmsford Collection

This collection of Consumer Technology Instruction and Service Manuals was amassed by Chelmsford Public Library from the 1960s until 2002 when it was donated at the Science Museum Library

The collection contains 9000 items dating from 1930 to 2002. About 40 of these date from 1930 to 1950. The remaining bulk dates from the period 1950 to 2002. All types of domestic technology produced by a wide range of manufacturers are covered, including radios, televisions, hi-fidelity, sound recording, washing machines, dishwashers, microwave cookers, remote control handsets, bicycles, irons, vacuum cleaners, and much more besides.

This collection is indexed in a card catalogue. The Chelmsford Collection is located at our Wroughton site.