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IKEA Launches a Digital Museum

IKEA catalogues through the ages

The globally renowned home furnishings brand, IKEA, has created a digital repository to celebrate the seven decades it has been producing consumer catalogues. After 70 years of printing catalogues of its sofas, beds, desks and chairs, the Swedish furniture giant decided that it would augment its physical museum in Älmhult with a virtual one. Now, anybody who wants to revisit its vast collection of old catalogues to review the changing sense of style since the middle of the twentieth century can do so. According to IKEA, with the world still operating with less air travel than used to be the case, the idea of bringing their old collections and exhibits to a wider public through a purely digital platform made a great deal of sense.

In September, the furniture brand launched the IKEA Museum Digital, a purpose-built platform that will serve as a digital version of its company museum. According to the people behind the project, the online museum will contain the most extensive source of designs and facts about the worldwide IKEA brand. Through the online museum, virtual attendees will be able to learn about the history of the company and to gain access to dozens of editorials as well as short documentaries about how IKEA became such an internationally well-known firm. There are interviews with IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, and insights into how he took a small business initially serving the domestic market in Sweden to become a global home furnishing conglomerate. IKEA is one of the most popular designer-retailer businesses in the world, boasting some 210,000 employees on its books with over 450 stores located in 61 different territories around the globe.

According to Jutta Viheriä, who works as the Leader of Strategic Initiatives at the IKEA Museum, many of the digitised stories that are told at the online version of the museum offer remarkable perspectives of the inner workings of the company. “Some have never been shared publicly before,” she said. Viheriä went on to add that these stories were not all about IKEA’s commercial successes but they also focussed on some of the mistakes that were made along the way. She said that the IKEA Museum Digital tried to tell the company’s story as it really happened, whether that meant discussing ‘a dangerous adventure’ or the firm’s potential past collapse.

Viheriä also pointed out that being able to browse through all of IKEA’s back catalogues constituted a nostalgic part of the digitised museum. According to her, visitors will be able to look over products that first came out in 1951 when the company was first starting out. The most recent edition of the now discontinued catalogue dates to 2021, so there is quite a shift in times and taste to take into consideration. For some, the chance to take a look at seven decades of catalogues from a single, iconic brand will mean being able to delve into social history as much as the company’s evolving design philosophy. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to share the history of IKEA, with people who have not yet travelled to Älmhult to visit us physically,” Viheriä said.

About the author – Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.

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