Unpack the stories and histories within everyday bags at Auckland Museum


Handbags, plastic bags, backpacks, chatelaines, kete, briefcases, inrō, miser’s purses, basikete and pohā - these everyday objects reflect diverse uses of bags across cultures. From Thursday 13 June 2019, in Auckland War Memorial Museum’s new special exhibition hall, Carried Away: Bags Unpacked reveals over 150 bags, exploring the stories associated with their creation, and the people who used them.

This exhibition features many bags that will go on display for the first time from Auckland Museum’s Applied Arts and Design collection, objects that have been part of the collection since the foundation of the institution. Carried Away: Bags Unpacked explores the design, materials, and techniques used to create what are both everyday objects and items of art and design. 

Carried Away: Bags Unpacked will also delve into some of the stories that relate to the bags, exploring the sometimes-unsuspected human histories behind the objects on display. Carried Away: Bags Unpacked will inspire audiences to think about how and why they use their own bags. Tapping into a desire to pry into the bags of others, visitors can pack a digital tote bag by digitally scanning a personal item from their own bag. Projections will accompany the objects on display, demonstrating the techniques used to make the bags, such as leather work and weaving, together with situational scenes that reveal the lives of bags outside the Museum walls.

Over the course of the exhibition, running from June until October 2019, there will be a series of tours and workshops investigating the social and design history of the bag. Interactive workshops will enable participants to print their own slogans on tote bags on offer. DEtour: The Good, the Bag and the Ugly, will investigate the history and hysteria behind the bags in a tour of the exhibition. The tote bag slogan printing workshop will unpack what it means to have a voice and how bags, with slogans on them, can operate in the world as an extension of the wearer.

The publication Carried Away: Bags Unpacked, published by Allen and Unwin, has been created to accompany the exhibition. In the introductory essay, Applied Arts and Design Curator Grace Lai looks to challenge the assumptions of bags and uncover their symbolism and power in history and contemporary society.

Applied Arts and Design Curator, Grace Lai says “The bag reveals as much as it conceals. The intention behind both the exhibition and the book is to unpack the values and meanings assigned to bags by individuals and society, past and present, that remain relevant not only to museums and their collections, but to society today.”

The exhibition is divided into four sections, Plant, Animal, Synthetic and Mineral, according to the bags materiality, allowing audiences the chance to look at bags from different cultures and traditions and to learn about the materials and techniques used. Carried Away: Bags Unpacked opens Thursday 13 June 2019.

Image caption: Novelty handbag (detail). Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira. 1995.56.17


Media contact
Bex Martelletti | Publicist
Mob: +64 21 955 362 
Email: bmartelletti@aucklandmuseum.com