Design Museum adds Kalashnikov AK-47, Sony Walkman and Midlands motorway sign to displays

The Design Museum has announced the acquisition of a further 13 pieces to its collections. Billed by the Museum as classics, the objects span the spectrum from the brutally functional to the cutting-edge of contemporary European design.

Headlining the additions are the Sony Walkman and the Kalashnikov AK-47. The Design Museum has said of the 1979 TPS L2 Sony Walkman’s inclusion in their collections “marks its journey into obsolescence”.

Once ubiquitous, the Walkman was one of the first of the mobile devices and is an object of nostalgia for a generation.

The same could not be said of the 1945-1946 Kalashnikov Rifle. Instantly recognisable from news footage, its status as a design icon lies in its reliability, ease of manufacture and deadliness. Its peculiar charisma was recently co-opted into a top-selling table lamp by Philippe Starck.

Other choices chart the technology milestones of the twentieth century. The 1954 Regency TR-1 portable radio, by Texas Instruments, is included because of its role in widening access to popular music. The 1984 Sony D50 MKII Discman and 1992 Sony MZ1 Mini Disc complete the story of modern popular music formats.

Representing the development of leisure technology, the 1978 Arcade Machine, designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, sparked a digital gaming revolution that now represents a multi-billion dollar industry. The first arcade games, such as Space Invaders, retain cult status to this day.

An unspecified quantity of issues of groundbreaking British music, fashion and culture monthly The Face Magazine have also been acquired.

Launched by Nick Logan in 1980 and designed between 1981 and 1986 by Neville Brody, in its time it published contributions from writers such as Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, as well as photographers Juergen Teller and David Sims, among others.

Unsurprisingly, the 2007 Amazon Kindle 3 has made the list, in part to acknowledge the massive shift in consumer behaviour it triggered.

Previous versions of electronic reading devices failed to break into the mass market, but in the last three months of 2010 Amazon announced their US e-book sales had surpassed sales on paperback books for the first time.

Less well known acquisitions include Ettore Sottsass’ 1969 Valentine typewriter, the 2009 Ipogeo table lamp by Jo Wentworth and 2010 LookSoFlat prototype floor lamp by Stefan Geisbauer, the 1972 Tripp Trapp children’s chair by Peter Opsvik and the 2006 3D Mouse Novint Falcon, which allows gamers to feel the texture and shape of the digital environment.

The Design Museum is developing its collection ahead of its relocation to new premises at the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2014. The move will increase available exhibition space by up to a third.

Other highlights include Margaret Calvert’s Motorway sign and the K6 Kiosk – otherwise known as the red telephone box.

Previously published on Culture 24

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