I had the most amazing experience earlier today. Helen Klein Ross (more famously known at @adbroad or @bettydraper) was at Duke University to deliver a lecture on social media and advertising. So I, not one to pass up the opportunity to meet past guests of The BeanCast, drove over to the campus early this morning to meet her. Helen is an amazing person. If you've not had an opportunity to meet her, make the time. She is witty, engaging, smart and truly delightful.
Well, to make a long story longer, we had a wonderful breakfast and then she asked if I wanted to see the Hartman Center with her.
Jacqueline Reid, Director at the center, had arranged private access to what may be the world's biggest collection of advertising history. The archive at Duke contains nearly the entire archive of J. Walter Thompson's storied history, as well as briefs, research and work from other agencies. And they continue to grow, soon adding another one of the big and storied agency players as a contributor to the archive.
The collection is rich and amazing. I saw ads for dozens of brands throughout the 20th century and that only scratched the surface of what they have. I saw brands at their best and brands at their absolute racist and sexist worst. But unlike many Internet scans, these were actual proof, many times attached to original documentation and strategy discussions.
To say the center blew my mind is an understatement. Just a few minutes there and you realize how much advertising has been a reflection of culture around the world.
I write so much here, because the ad industry needs to know about what's going on at Duke. If you are an agency, you need to be seriously considering donating your archive to the center for preservation. They charge no more than your internal archival costs and provide a chance to preserve the history that our work represents. And if you are a researcher, movie producer or just an agency looking for historical perspective, the Hartman Center represents the first place you should look for information.
As Jacqueline points out in the interview, a little study can show that woman have historically played more of a role in shaping advertising than many have realized. And in terms of historical data, only they knew what colors were used for the light of the Great White Way's many advertising signs when the producers of King Kong came looking for answers.
So make an appointment the next time you're in Durham, NC. You'll love every minute of the experience.