Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition: records

Scope and Content

The archive primarily comprises material relating to the Daily Mail Ideal Home exhibitions: 55 printed exhibition catalogues; 35 photograph albums and 9 indexes to albums; 262 photographs; 16 miscellaneous printed items. There are 10 photograph albums and 474 photographs relating to exhibitions organised by Associated Newspapers and Angex Ltd: Daily Mail Happy Home exhibition; Evening News Flower and Country Show; Caravan Camping Holiday Show; Lifestyle; World Wine Fair and Festival; Homes; Queen's Jubilee Gifts exhibition; Royal Wedding Gifts exhibition. There are 3 photograph albums and 81 photographs recording international exhibitions and architecture. There are 8 miscellaneous items, including a photograph album recording the construction of Earls Court.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of the Daily Mail, founded the Ideal Home exhibition in 1908 at London's Olympia exhibition centre, in the spirit of social reform, to stimulate debate about better housing conditions. For a fee of one shilling, the public were educated and entertained by displays of labour-saving appliances and show homes. The exhibition was next held in 1910, then 1912 and 1913, disrupted by the 1914-18 war, and held annually from 1920 to 1939. Inter-war issues of 'homes fit for heroes', child welfare and working-class housing were taken up. Many of the displays were generated by the organisers, such as Heath Robinson's Ideal Home in 1934. The Daily Mail ran competitions for its readers to design 'ideal homes' and the results were often displayed at the exhibition. 300,000 visitors attended the exhibition in 1924; by 1937 the attendance figure had more than doubled.

The emphasis of the post Second World War exhibitions, from 1947, shifted. In an era of post-war austerity, display space was needed to generate income from commercial stands. An increasingly sophisticated public, familiar with the spectacles of mass communication, was harder to entertain through display. Nevertheless attendance reached an all-time peak in 1958 of over 1,300,000. In the 1950s and 1960s, the exhibitions acted as a shop window, giving valuable floor-space and publicity to white goods that shops did not have the room to display, but in the 1970s superstores and commercial television took over this function. The Blue Ribbon awards for good design were set up in 1966. In 1979 the exhibition moved from Olympia to Earls Court. 'Green' design, has been a prominent feature in recent years.

The Ideal Home exhibitions are a rich source for the history of domestic architecture, interior design, product design (eg Hoover), advertising, the marketing of public utilities (eg British Gas) and the formation of constituencies of taste, social aspirations and lifestyles of social groupings not usually well documented by museums. A deliberate attempt is made to appeal to the 'mum in the street' and her daughters. The exhibitions are divided into thematic sections which can be summarised as: 1) Domestic Labour Saving; 2) Show Homes; 3) Food; 4) Interior Decoration; 5) Leisure. Major designers and architects, such as Wells Coates (Sunspan House, 1934), Alison and Peter Smithson (House of the Future, 1956), Basil Spence, Hugh Casson, Misha Black and James Gardner worked on the Ideal Home exhibitions.

During the 1940s and 1950s the Ideal Home exhibition organisers compiled photograph albums recording international exhibitions and architecture, as a source of information and inspiration. In 1955-6 a Daily Mail Happy Home exhibition toured Britain, organised in conjunction with the Gas Council and Good Housekeeping magazine. In 1975, Associated Newspapers set up Angex Ltd to take over responsibility for the Ideal Home exhibitions. The company also organises a number of other consumer exhibitions (see above).


The archive has been sorted as follows:

AAD/1990/9/1 to AAD/1990/9/136 - Ideal Home exhibitions

AAD/1990/9/137 to AAD/1990/9/164 - Angex Ltd exhibitions

AAD/1990/9/165 to AAD/1990/9/173 - International exhibitions

AAD/1990/9/174 to AAD/1990/9/182 - Miscellaneous items

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Angex Ltd, 1990

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.