Home > View & Discuss > One object, many stories: Matchbox labels

One object, many stories: Matchbox labels

  • Date recorded: 9 Nov 2017

  • Duration: 54:56

'The scrapbook that was purchased by the Library in 2012 is a brilliant time capsule of this window of the swinging '20s and '30s, and an optimism that was stamped out by the militarism of 1937.'

– Wayne Crothers

About this video

Listen to an expert panel discuss the commercial art of mid-20th-century Japanese matchbox labels, as featured in the State Library Victoria 2018 Diary and in a scrapbook held in the Library's collection.

Jenny Grigg, Jerry Bell and Wayne Crothers explore the history of match manufacturing in Japan, its link to the samurai and the way the eye-catching labels intricately reflect prevailing fashions and popular culture.

They speculate on the inspiration that Japanese commercial artists likely drew from the European avant-garde during the 1920s, and reflect on these matchbox covers as a window on a period of Japanese optimism and modernism that flared briefly before being stamped out by World War II.

This is a recording of a free event held at State Library Victoria on 9 November 2017.


  • Bernard Caleo (chair) is a performer, author, illustrator, comic book maker and was a 2013 Library Creative Fellow.
  • Jerry Bell is a member of the Australian Match Cover Collectors' Society.
  • Jenny Grigg is a graphic designer, industry fellow, PhD candidate at RMIT and was a 2011 Library Creative Fellow.
  • Wayne Crothers spent 18 years living in Japan and is now Senior Curator of Asian Art at NGV.