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Conservation efforts using simple match boxes

Photo credit: Saikat Kumar Basu
WhatsApp Image 2022-11-06 at 1.30.19 PM

By - Saikat Kumar Basu

People across the generations and cultures enjoy various hobbies and that could include collecting coins, currency notes, postage stamps, key rings, flyers, newspapers, magazines, pens, pencils, belts, pins, broach, jewels, ornaments, post cards and what not! But collection of match boxes ? Isn’t that something so new for us to explore abs experience! The collection of match boxes is known as PHILLUMENY. A renowned journalist in the city of Kolkata (West Bengal, India) Mr. Gopi De Sarkar  has been collecting match boxes for the past five decades and has a collection above couple thousand matchboxes. He and his son (Mr. Srijon De Sarkar) together has organized several workshops, produced documentary films and published books based on their personal collection representing the entire globe including India. He is now well known as one of the leading phillumenist from South Asia. He has contributed immensely in the discipline of Indian Phillumeny. The following series demonstrates the use of match box images to make public aware of tiger conservation is a priority as tiger is an apex predator of their ecosystem. Mr. Gopi De Sarkar is therefore contributing towards biological conservation in his own way of communicating education abs awareness by using his hobby as a leading Phillumenist. 

The unique collection of match boxes highlighted in this article specializes on the theme of wildlife conservation and to be more specific on tiger conservation. Most of these match boxes not only serve as a tool for lighting ovens, candles, lanterns, pipes, cigarettes or cigars; but at the same tine provides an important message of tiger conservation. Why is this important? Because every tine an individual uses the match box, he or she is reminded that as an apex predator tiger needs protection to conserve our ecosystem. If our apex predator (or the flag ship species) is protected we can secure the health of the entire ecosystem. The tiger family pics or pics of tiger and cub(s) are an essential emotional connection to an individual user by linking it to his or her own family. If our human family protection is important so is the protection of the tiger family as it secures the future if the next generation of tiger that will continue to thrive and sustain in the forest ecosystem. A simple image but yet so powerful in its statement to connect it to the user instantaneously. 

Similar efforts are also observed by promoting wildlife images in the currency and postage stamps by many countries around the globe. However, with increased e-commerce and e-transactions;  and rapid transformation in e-communications our heritage and emotions associated with currency and postage stamps are slowly eroding. The story of match box is also the same. Advances in technology has produced many modern lightening tools and lighters that are slowly replacing match boxes around the globe. Yet it is still in use abs has a nostalgic appeal to all of us because of its novelty, simplicity and rich heritage. The messages of conservation communicated through match box cover is an illuminating act demonstrating how a powerful image could change our thoughts abs attitudes towards biological conservation. Without the efforts of collectors such as Mr. Gopi De Sarkar we may have never been able to explore this at one place abs time ! 


Mr. Gopi De Sarkar has by now accumulated over 9,000 + match boxes in his grand collection. People visit his house to catch glimpses of his breathtaking collection of matchboxes from early 1800s to present day. He conducts numerous workshops across West Bengal in both online and offline mode in schools, colleges and universities on the history of use and manufacturing of matchboxes with examples from all over the globe.  His workshops on match box evolution from 1800s to present day is an outstanding experience to avail for the mesmerized audience.  Such a unique type of collections are the fruit of a passionate person who painstakingly collect his items from numerous sources, archive them carefully and  conserve them through meticulous hard work and passionate endeavour. We extend our heartiest congratulations and respect for Mr. Gopi De Sarkar for his dedicated efforts and passion for his collection and for his monumental contributions towards education and awareness among the public.