The Museum of Bags Goes to College

Photo by University of Akron
Bags from the Lee Forman collection
Bags from the Lee Forman collection

The “Bag Lady” would be elated.

Lee Forman of McLean, Va., often joked that she adored that handle.

amusing shopping bags (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) amusing shopping bags

Her collection of some 13,000 shopping bags, amassed during four decades until she died in 2009, has been donated to the University of Akron. It had been at The Museum of Bags, once located in McLean, Va.  The Lee L. Forman Bag Collection now is housed as a key collection in the Institute of Human Science and Culture, part of the university’s Cummings Center for the History of Psychology. The bags will be exhibited on a rotating basis and used as part of the university’s undergraduate Museum and Archives Certificate Program.

In its description of the collection, the university traced the history of shopping bags.

“From its origins as a plain fiber sack, the humble shopping bag emerged as a sophisticated merchandising tool. Its development parallels the transformation of the American retailing economy from peddlers, shopkeepers, and dry goods stores in the 19th century, to the rise of department and chain stores, mail order catalogues, and supermarkets in the 20th century. Its development reflects changing trends in art, design, and marketing over more than a century.”

Eat Your Peas bag (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Eat Your Peas bag

The Lee L. Forman Bag Collection is the legacy and namesake of Lee, a graphic designer, who began the collection in the 1970s by saving Bloomingdale’s shopping bags. The collection grew as Forman became increasingly interested in the design and history of bags as cultural icons.

The collection includes shopping bags autographed by artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and bags from nearly every presidential election since 1948.  It also contains a 45 rpm record sleeve signed by all four Beatles and a century-old saddle bag from 1917.

 “Lee would be thrilled to known that her passion of collecting bags has found a permanent home and will be used for research and educational purposes,” said museum co-founder and Lee’s husband, Howard Forman, who successfully and lovingly spearheaded the search for the new cultural home after Lee passed in 2009.

“In addition to their use as tools of study, this extensive collection will serve a vital role in the university’s certificate program in museums and archives,” the school said on its website in announcing the gift from Howard and his wife, Elaine, residents of McLean. Both are active in the northern Virginia arts community.





1 Comment For This Article


Lee was so special. I'm honored to've been able to get to know her