The humble Do Not Disturb sign is a standard feature of hotel rooms, and while most of us don’t tend to pay much attention to them, one Italian man has amassed a collection of 15,000 signs from over 200 countries. Edoardo Flores is a retired UN worker living in Turin, and he has a passion for travel and an unusual hobby.
Edoardo was inspired to start his collection when a colleague spotted some signs hanging in his office from some business trips and suggested they would make a nice collection. “From that moment on, I made sure I picked up a ‘souvenir’ whenever I stayed in a hotel,” he tells Lonely Planet. “I should add that many years earlier my father had been a hotel manager, and therefore I had a particular interest in these items and the hotels they came from.”
Edoardo has become passionate about the art, design and stories behind these signs, some of which are very unusual. While most are made of paper or card, others are made of plastic, wood, fabric, leather, brass and other materials. His collection is not just from hotels, as some signs have come from cruise ships, airlines, educational institutions and hospitals, etc. “Arranging and storing a collection of over 15,000 pieces is no easy task,” he says. “I have displayed some of the more attractive ones in a room at home, but the majority are stored in envelopes or boxes, sorted by country.”
When it comes to more unusual signs that are not just the average paper ones, Edoardo always asks the hotels if he can purchase them. Sometimes they are even found in hotel souvenir shops, and he is interested in the history behind them. “Judging by some of the vintage signs that survive to this day, we can assume that the first widespread use was likely in the early 20th century,” he says. “This was mainly in the United States and Europe, particularly by the more prestigious hotels where discretion was the better part of valour.”
With such an extensive collection, it isn’t easy for Edoardo to choose favourites, but he says that, in general, the ones he likes the most come from Asian countries. Here hotels often use the talent of local artisans to produce some unique signs carved in wood or other materials. “These come mostly from Indonesia (Bali), Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia,” he says.
“There are also many attractive ones from other countries where hotels have invested in original designs and messages. I also have a particular liking for signs that come from lesser-known island countries in the Pacific, etc.” One of the rarest pieces in Edoardo’s collection comes from Vatican City. “It is from the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a hotel for people having business with the Vatican,” he says. “It is now the place where the current Pope has chosen to live.”
You can find out more about Edoardo’s collection here.