Exploring American history, culture, and identity through advertising #ncla11

Exploring American history, culture, and identity through advertising #ncla11
Richard Collier, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History, Duke University

Rick Collier provided a fascinating look at just some of the advertisements in the Hartman Center collection and how the advertisements can reveal the values, hopes, and concerns of the nation at that time.

– In 1987, the J. Walter Thompson Company, one of the oldest and largest US ad agencies (begun in the mid-1800’s), donated its corporate archives to Duke.
– In 1992, Duke alum Hartman donated money to set up Hartman Center.
– In the past 20 years have acquired several major collections.
– Approached by Apple and asked to digitize about 16,000 commercials that are now available through iTunesU.
– Over 3 million items in collection, including print advertisements, television and radio commercials and scripts, documentation (design layouts, sketches, case studies and market reports, campaign strategies and analysis, salesman kits and training materials, etc.)
– Who uses it? Historians, writers, journalists, publishers, advertising professionals, movie production companies, genealogists, nostalgia seekers, educators and students
– Why study history through advertising?
– Advertising developed with the industrial development and expansion of US and links these industries to media to form the American market system
– Advertising helped goods develop distinct identities as brands, which in turn reflect the values and aspirations of certain groups. Taken as a whole, advertising reflects the nation at the time and its aims, hopes, and fears. We can learn who we are, were, and strove to become by viewing history through the lens of advertising.
– Richard provided examples of ads from different time periods that exemplify social themes of the time.
– How has the Hartman Center used advertising to teach history?
– comparisons of past and present in Center’s newsletter (ex. Bowling promoted as healthy activity in 1914, DDR in today’s classrooms to fight obesity)
– exhibit on sexuality in historic contexts
– using ad photos to document history of public spaces, such as billboards & signs on Atlantic City Boardwalk
– exhibit on advertising’s role in developing children as consumers
– Advertising archives as documentary evidence (aka archivist as detective)
– in 2005 contacted by production company working on King Kong remake
– one of the items of interest was electric spectacular for Pepsodent spectacular from original 1933 movie, able to find still photo from 1931, article in trade journal from 1930 with technical specs and color image of the sign, which made it possible for production company to make a fairly accurate reproduction for new movie
– Hartman Center receives around 1500 research requests a year
– do charge a fee for doing research, copying or scanning images, but not for academic/educational class visits & presentations

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