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In the fast-paced world of advertising, the future is now, the present is already passe and the past is, as they say, history. The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University hopes to preserve that history in a high tech manner.

John Hartman, the CEO of Bill Communications from 1957 to 1989 and one of the center's major benefactors, said: "Art...is preserved and exhibited to reflect our histories, societies, contemporary values of the time, cultures....Archives of sales, advertising and marketing do the same."

Information about the collection is already available on the center's World Wide Web site (http://odyssey.lib.duke.edu/hartman/). Center Director Ellen Gartrell said an online catalog of the collection's holdings will be available within a year, and plans are in the works to put parts of the collection itself up on the Web for reference.

The center's own history dates to 1987 when J. Walter Thompson Co. decided to donate its corporate archive to Duke. That archive included not just ads but the documentation surrounding each account-proposal letters, sales pitches, meeting notes. William O'Barr, a Duke anthropology professor using the collection for his research, convinced JWT the archive should be made available to the public.

But, while the JWT archives were an important resource, Duke alum Mr. Hartman's initial donation to the school helped establish the Hartman Center in 1992.

The collection is growing, too. Besides the original JWT material, JWT, Chicago, just sent a 300-volume contribution to the Durham, N.C., facility. Other recent acquisitions include the collection of Eastman Kodak Co.-related memorabilia put together by eminent Kodak collector Wayne Ellis.

Senior Partner John Furr of JWT, Chicago, said the agency has been surprised by how many scholars have used the collection. "To the degree that we can help foster understanding about the role and purpose of our industry [the center] is a benefit, including for the company itself," he said.

Jennifer Scanlon, an associate professor at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, used the collection in researching "Inarticulate Longings," (Routledge, 1995) on the history of the Ladies' Home Journal and advertising. "It's a terrific place to do research. The collection is very comprehensive and in-depth," she said.

Ms. Gartrell added that the center's true importance is that it "helps to widen the understanding that [advertising] is an important part of American society and culture."

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