As someone without a background in photography, film, television, or media, I often find myself mystified by the objects I deal with on a daily basis. However, I regularly come across material that no amount of expertise can prepare you for. In this series I’m going to highlight some of the weird and wonderful objects I come into contact with down here in the museum’s collection stores.
Spice up your life!
[Blogger’s note: If you don’t know who the Spice Girls are stop reading and go listen to them. You’ve been missing out]
Recently I was looking around one of our stores when I came across this:
I think you’ll agree that a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Spice Girls is not something you expect to find in a museum store. I love a good mystery (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), so I simply had to find out why we had it.
It turns out this cut-out was used to advertise the ‘SpiceCam,’ a Polaroid camera from the 1990s that tapped in to the massive popularity of the Spice Girls. We even have one in our collections, along with its original box.
Aside from being more glam than your average Polaroid, the SpiceCam was identical to its siblings in terms of technical capabilities. It had built-in flash and a carry strap for use on the go, and aimed to fit into the same quick-snap culture that Polaroid embodied. It was meant to be fast and exciting, rather than the precise and arduous labour of ‘professional’ photography. In this sense it had a lot in common with the Spice Girls, who also epitomised the fun and spontaneous. Perhaps then this was more than just a company slapping famous faces on its products. Indeed, the SpiceCam was used to promote Polaroid’s new film format ‘Polaroid Extreme 600 film’ which implies that it was more than just a novelty. Adverts stressed the range of options for the extreme 600 film: from high speed, to matt surfaces that you could write onto, to glossy, each of which had its own Spice Girl to advertise it.
On the subject of adverts, they used some truly bizarre ones to sell the camera, including a minute-long clip set in a Catholic school, in which the Spice Girls and Spice Cam only appear in the last 10 seconds. You can see the video here:
I’ve not been able to find out how effective these adverts were, or even if the cameras sold well, but I think they’re wonderful. Aside from being an example of a company trying to tap into pop culture, the cameras are so of their time. Nothing stimulates 90s nostalgia like a Polaroid camera with stickers of the Spice Girls on it. The SpiceCam seems to regularly pop up for sale online for anyone who’s interested. For me though I’m satisfied with this shot, which will be my profile picture on all social media platforms forever.