Busy Beaver Buttons

I’ve never understood the hoopla around buttons. When I say buttons, I don’t mean the essential ones that hold shirts and pants in place. I mean the ones that pop up in unnecessary places and situations just because they’re a cool thing—places like school bags, caps, hats, and scarves.

Students and adults alike share this affliction with buttons, I realised when I was in Chicago for a work-related event. It’s now the most popular swag corporates can give away at trade shows. People grab these fancy, custom-designed buttons, endorsing companies they’d never even heard of before.

And so it seemed pretty ordinary to have a museum of buttons. Or so I thought until I visited the place.

The Busy Beaver Button Museum (go o, click the link—it’s an online museum too) in Chicago hosts buttons dating back to the 70s and 80s. They have about 1200 buttons on display, all categorised, awaiting appreciation and well-deserved jaw drops. Oh, and they had another 3200 buttons in crates still unopened.

How do they get all these buttons?

They buy from various people and organisations—it was obvious that they’d been doing this for years.

As I browsed through the many witty buttons, I realised that the trend wasn’t new or specific to modern corporate culture. There were buttons about beer, parenting, wine (of course!), social causes, awareness, politics, and so many other topics the world’s cared about for years.

Buttons have helped people express their emotions for years. And this trend won’t go away anytime soon.

Oh, and if you’re interested in getting yourself some buttons, the folks who maintain the non-profitable museum, also have a for-profit business of making buttons. The factory consists of a few people and you can hear the machines while you walk along the wall of exhibits. It’s one of those little things in a city that not a lot of tourists know of. But it’s so worth the 20-minute train ride. Well, if you’re ever in town…

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