Magical Poppies

Ages ago, I wrote a blog post about ‘Magical Touching‘. It was based on Carolyn Korsmeyer’s excellent paper exploring people’s affective experience of genuine objects and how this is shaped by their beliefs of them. Just recently, I attended a seminar at Media, Culture, Heritage by Dr Joanne Sayner and Dr Jenny Kidd about their work on the Field of Blood poppy installation at the Tower of London and the subsequent touring exhibitions ‘Wave’ and ‘Weeping Window’. Amongst other things, Joanne touched on the use of the poppy as a brand by the Royal British Legion as part of their endeavour to raise more funds for their charitable work.

These two threads came together when a letter from the Royal British Legion came through my post containing this little snippet…

Advert for ‘Passchendaele 100’ Poppy Pin

This is fascinating!

All the things that Korsmeyer wrote about are put to work in this product: a pin hammered out of brass fuses from shells used during the battle at Passchendaele, soil from battlefield worked into the enamel. All of this presumably designed to evoke those affective reactions from people who get emotionally engaged in the touch of the genuine and encounters with things from the past. And, again presumably, someone must have identified a potential market for whom this experience of the genuine will be appealing. Otherwise, why make them to raise money?

Of course, the sense of the genuine is being manufactured. This irony, which is inherent in so much heritage, is palpable here.



Korsmeyer, C. (2012) ‘Touch and the Experience of the Genuine’, British Journal of Aesthetics, 52(4): 365-377

About Bruce Davenport

Research associate at Newcastle University. Previously a museum educator and researcher.
This entry was posted in Objects, touch. Bookmark the permalink.

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