Milk, Milk, Milk

Milk might seem like a slightly strange topic for a museum display but, as our Museum team explains, it is a powerful device with which to measure the past, present and future.

Thames Ditton's history with milk is long. The Milk Marketing Board, the organisation that controlled the buying and selling of every drop of milk between 1933 and 1994, was based in Thames Ditton on Gigg's Hill. Many local residents remember working at the MMB building; it was one of the largest local employers.

However, the new display in Thames Ditton Library not only charts the history of the Board, it embeds the principle of the MMB and what it set out to achieve in the context of recent developments within the farming world and wider economic issues.

Many dairy farmers have stopped producing milk or have moved into other fields of agriculture. This is due to the low prices they are being paid for their product; price wars in supermarkets are often blamed.

While organising exhibitions for a museum without walls, it has been great to use our collection to fill in gaps - the years between 1994 when the MMB closed and the present day - to interpret a completely fresh story from the Elmbridge Museum archives.

Illustrating a social history that addresses national and global issues as well as just the local is incredibly important for museums. 'Milk' doesn't answer any questions as to how the 'milk crisis' can be resolved, but it does raise questions. The impact that small, personal choices have on major issues can be more easily understood when they are reduced down to the mundane and everyday such as milk.