Museums and Archives

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Both as artifacts of the advertising industry's history and as cultural symbols, advertising memorabilia have been collected and archived throughout the world. One notable collection of advertising historiography is at Duke University's John W. Hartman Center in Durham, N.C., which is home to the J. Walter Thompson Co. archives as well as an extensive collection of advertising and marketing materials from other agencies.

Among other interesting items, this collection includes ad tear sheets and proofs created by JWT from 1875 through the 1990s, internal company memoranda and publications, and tapes and transcripts of oral interviews with the agency's staff between 1963 and 1979.

Many collections of advertising material are also available via the Internet, and a number of archives have databases of their material that can be searched online.

When searching for information about ads for a particular product, it is often best to turn to the source of those ads. For example, Butterick Co. maintains an archive in New York that includes marketing material for the sewing industry. The Museum of Beverage Containers & Advertising in Millersville, Tenn., houses items dealing specifically with beverage containers. Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola, with Coca-Cola memorabilia dating back to the inception of the company in 1886, is the world's largest collection of beverage paraphernalia. And the Henry Ford Museum & Archive in Dearborn, Mich., is rich with historical ads and information about Ford automobiles.

The following is a selection of the advertising museums and archives accessible to the public that highlight more than 100 years of advertising history; they are listed alphabetically.


American Museum of the Moving Image
35 Avenue at 36 Street
Astoria, N.Y. 11106

The collection is primarily devoted to materials related to TV and motion pictures, including film posters and ad memorabilia related to those media.

CreatAbiliTOYS! Museum of Advertising Icons
1550 Madruga Ave., Suite 504
Coral Gables, Fla. 33146

This collection features more than 700 advertising icons dating back to 1939. The museum features trademark figures used in advertising and promotions for consumer goods, including Mr. Bubble, Charlie Tuna, Speedy Alka-Seltzer and Tony the Tiger.

William K. Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design
208 N. Water
Milwaukee, Wis. 53202

This museum includes the comprehensive collection of the now-defunct American Advertising Museum, Portland, Ore. The archive contains print ads as well as radio and TV spots; it includes materials dating from 1700 to the present.

Musée de la Publicité
Palais de Louvre
107 rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris, France

The collection, established in 1978, contains 40,000 French and other posters dating from the mid-18th century to 1949. Additionally, more than 45,000 contemporary posters have been donated by ad agencies, advertisers and graphic designers. The collection also contains contemporary ads and publicity films.

Museum of Beverage Containers & Advertising
1055 Ridgecrest Drive
Millersville, Tenn. 37072

This museum's collection includes more than 36,000 items. Displays are also available at the museum Web site.

Museum of Broadcast Communications
(Reopening in 2005)
9 W. Kinzie
Chicago, Ill. 60610

The Museum of Broadcast Communications, which opened in 1987, is in the process of moving to new headquarters in Chicago. In addition to general TV and radio exhibits, it maintains the A.C. Nielsen Jr. Research Center & Archives and the G.D. Crain Jr. Advertising Center. The archives contain more than 13,000 historic TV commercials.

Museum of Television & Radio
25 W. 52nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10019

465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210

The Museum of Television & Radio opened in New York in 1991, then expanded in 1996 with a facility in Beverly Hills. In addition to radio and TV scripts and tapes, the collection contains more than 10,000 commercials from the 1920s to the present.

Strong Museum
One Manhattan Square
Rochester, N.Y. 14607

The Strong Museum contains a collection of advertising materials representing U.S. advertising from 1840 to the present. The collection of more than 50,000 objects includes trade cards, handbills, posters, labels, business cards and display pieces.

World of Coca-Cola
55 Martin Luther King Drive
Atlanta, Ga.

The history of the Coca-Cola Co. from the beginning of the corporation in 1886 to the present is presented through hundreds of artifacts, exhibits and videos. More than 1,000 pieces of marketing and advertising memorabilia are on exhibit.


American Association of Advertising Agencies
405 Lexington Ave., 18th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10174

The Four A's holds a vast clip file on all present members. It also has a collection of clippings on past members no longer in business.

Butterick Archives
161 Ave. of the Americas
New York, N.Y. 10013

Holdings include records of advertising and marketing related to fashions in the apparel and home-sewing industries.

D'Arcy Collection of the Communications Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
810 S. Wright St.
Urbana, Ill. 61801

This collection comprises nearly 2 million original ads published between 1890 and 1970. Donated by D'Arcy-MacManus & Masius (which later became D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles) in 1983, the collection contains ads that appeared in newspapers, magazines and trade journals as well as brochures, signs and programs. Included in the collection are ads for consumer products, as well as ads from public service organizations and governmental bodies. An index of the ads in the Communications Library can be found on the library's Web site.

Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
Ford Archives
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, Mich. 48124

The collection contains Ford Motor Co. records regarding public relations and advertising, as well as the personal papers of many individuals associated with Henry Ford or Ford Co. An index and examples of Ford advertising are available on the Web site.

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Duke University
Box 90185
Durham, N.C. 27708

The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History was created in 1992 as a part of the Duke University Special Collections Library. It is the home of the corporate archives of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and J. Walter Thompson Co. The center also holds the archives of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and the Mobius Advertising Awards Collection (10,000 TV and radio commercials from the 1980s through the early 1990s).

History of Advertising Trust Archive
HAT House
12 Raveningham Centre
Raveningham Norwich NR14 6NU
44 (0) 1508-548623

The History of Advertising Trust Archive contains 2 million items related to advertising, marketing, media, public relations and related topics. HAT holds material ranging from the archive of R.F. White, the U.K.'s first ad agency (ca. 1800), to the latest TV spots.

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
Archive Center
Room C340, MRC 601
12th Street and Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20560

The National Museum of American History Archive Center houses two important advertising archives: the Warsaw Collection of Business Americana and the N.W. Ayer Collection. The former holds materials dating back to the 18th century and includes 2 million items related to business advertising, such as trade cards, posters and correspondence. In-depth studies of many modern ad campaigns are also included in the collection. The N.W. Ayer Collection includes more than 600,000 proof sheets from campaigns the agency created between 1889 and the 1970s.

Television News Archive
Vanderbilt University
110 21st Ave. South, Suite 704
Nashville, Tenn. 37203

Since 1968, the Television News Archive has recorded, indexed and preserved network TV newscasts; it is the world's most accessible, extensive and complete archive of TV news. Television commercials that ran during the evening news broadcasts from 1968 to the present are catalogued and identified by product. News stories in which advertising itself was the subject (e.g., stories about political ads or Super Bowl ads) are also cataloged. The archive's Web site includes a searchable database.

J. Walter Thompson Collection
John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Box 90185
Durham, N.C. 27708

The most complete and informative corporate record of the advertising industry, this collection contains more than 1 million ad documents covering the period from 1875 to the 1990s. The collection includes JWT ad tear sheets and proofs from 1875 to the 1990s, ad tear sheets from competitor agencies from 1916 to the 1990s, personnel files, company publications, notes from staff meetings and memoranda, and the minutes from board meetings. Access to JWT Archives is through the Hartman Center.

Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research
816 State St.
Madison, Wis. 53706

The Wisconsin Historical Society, located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, was founded in 1846 and is home to the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research. Publicity materials housed at the center include photographs, posters, press books, playbills, clippings, scrapbooks, graphics and ephemera. Promotional stills and graphics from more than 40,000 domestic and foreign motion pictures from the 1890s to the present are housed at the center.

Internet-based sources

This database contains more than 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines during the first half of the 20th century. The collection is divided into five categories: beauty and hygiene, radio, TV, transportation and World War II. The images in Ad*Access are part of the "Competitive Advertisements Collection" of the J. Walter Thompson Co. Archives.

Ad Council
Historical public service advertising campaigns produced by the Ad Council are available from the agency's Web site. Materials include posters from World War II as well as campaigns for forest fire prevention, antipollution initiatives, crime prevention and drunk-driving prevention.

The Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920
This digital library was funded in part by the Library of Congress and Ameritech and consists of 8,500 images relating to the history of advertising.

Radio Advertising Archive
Since 1994, this online collection has contained award-winning radio advertising from the U.K., U.S., South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

University of Texas Out-of-Home Archive
This online database of outdoor advertising from 1992 to 1995 was compiled by Gannett Outdoor Advertising and the Advertising Department at the University of Texas at Austin.

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