By Cailey Rizzo
March 21, 2018
Courtesy of Edoardo Flores

Edoardo Flores — like many — began his collection by accident.

During his time working as an Italian civil servant, Flores was often on the road. At some point in the ‘90s, he began pinching “do not disturb” signs from the doors of his hotel rooms as souvenirs. When he came back to Italy, he hung the signs on the walls of his office.

It wasn’t until a friend suggested curating an official collection that Flores considered his signs seriously. “From that day on I made it a point to take a ‘souvenir’ wherever I went,” Flores told Travel + Leisure. It wasn’t long until he became “addicted” to amassing and maintaining his ever-growing collection.

Related: Anthony Bourdain Reveals His Most Treasured Travel Souvenir

Courtesy of Edoardo Flores

“I am always amazed by their variety in both design and messages,” Flores told T+L. “Original designs, unusual shapes and materials, witty messages, spelling mistakes, etc. Any creative combination of these makes the signs fascinating.”

His collection now amounts to nearly 15,000 Do Not Disturb (DND) signs from more than 200 countries and territories — a number of which are donated by fans and hotels from around the world.

While attempting to learn more about the items in his collection, Flores found a road block. “While a lot of information exists on the development of hospitality throughout the ages, nothing is known about the origin of DND signs,” Flores explained. He suspects one clever manager of a high-end hotel first utilized DND signs (and their consequent privacy) to entice wealthy guests seeking seclusion. By the early 20th century, the use of the signs was widespread throughout the hospitality industry.

Related: 11 Bizarre Souvenirs You Could Once Purchase at Disney Parks

Despite a lack of historical records, Flores has noticed some trends in his collection. He said that vintage signs, particularly from American hotels, often had “humorous designs” or “more detailed instructions on how to use them.” Modern signs “tend to be more simple and to the point” — although many design-based hotels now use do not disturb signs as an opportunity to “distinguish themselves and appeal to image-conscious guests.”

Courtesy of Edoardo Flores

The signs can also be indicators of change in the travel and hospitality industries. Many are reflective of the time or place from which they came. Flores said that many Asian and African countries were more likely to have unique designs or “use local artisans to produce artistic DND signs in wood or other materials.”

It’s now common for DND signs to come printed with multiple languages, which Flores believes “is an indication of increased importance of mass tourism.”

Flores is a self-proclaimed “meticulous collector” who keeps a database with information and scanned images of each sign in his collection. Those who are curious about the history of the signs can browse his digital archives.

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