In 1993, Mark Kelehan stumbled across a 1980 Pac Man lunchbox for sale at a flea market in Omaha, Nebraska. The imagery of this lunchbox triggered a sense of nostalgia about his childhood. That lunchbox
would kick off a 30-year journey of exploring and researching the rich history of lunchboxes.
The exhibition came together after extensive research at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, University of Connecticut archives, interviews with notable collectors, and former employees and artists at Aladdin and Thermos.
In 2023, The Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska partnered with Mark to present his collection as a feature exhibition. This is the largest collection of original lunchbox paintings in private hands.
Logo by Robert S. Jones, Aladdin Illustrator 1976-83.
The traveling exhibition, The Lunchbox: Packed with Pop Culture was created by Mark Kelehan with content support from The Durham Museum. The tour is managed by Dala Projects.
Featuring over 500 hundred lunchboxes as well as one-of-a-kind original paintings, the display provides an overview of the history of lunchboxes, insight into the production process and an educational introduction into the dynamic world of collecting. The Lunchbox demonstrates how lunchboxes are time capsules of American pop culture from the 1950s through the 1980s. Across America and beyond, schoolchildren celebrated heroes of the big and small screen, radio, sports and more on metal lunchboxes. Before computers made digital art a reality, lunchbox art came to life with the assistance of professional illustrators, whose brilliant work was transferred onto tens of millions of lunchboxes year after year. From practical beginnings, a culture of collecting was born that allowed individuals to recapture some nostalgia, history and art.