Susan Smulyan, a professor in the Department of American Studies at Brown University, shares student exhibitions resulting from a collaboration with the museum and Curator Kathleen Franz.
In the fall semester of last year, 100 undergraduates, three graduate students, three teaching assistants, and I began a lecture course titled "American Advertising: History and Consequences." We traced the history of American advertising, including the rise of national advertising, the economics of the advertising industry, the relation of advertising to consumption, race and ethnicity in advertising, the representation of advertising in fiction and film, and broadcast, internet, and international advertising.
The final exam asked students to imagine the advertising section of the upcoming American Enterprise exhibition on American business, presenting mini-exhibitions, some of which we’re sharing in this post. The exhibition's co-curator, Kathleen Franz, visited the class and explained both the exhibition itself and how to write labels. Students used the museum's Flickr site as well as the Advertising Education Foundation's "Race and Ethnicity in Advertising" website to build their exhibitions.
The students' exhibitions explain their ideas about the history and future of advertising and I think you can see how excited they were to work with the museum. Students understood that others found our course subjects interesting and they thought about how to speak to the general public about what they had learned. As a faculty member, you don’t get better outcomes than that. I hope you enjoy the students' work!
Above: Student Sophie Blistein's presentation. In the accompanying paper, she writes: "It is often asked whether advertisements reflect our society or exaggerate it, promote it or deride it, propagate its principles or attempt to change them."
Above: Katherine Macpherson's presentation. She writes: "As the dominant media changed from print, to radio, to television, to the internet and beyond, advertisers have adapted and invented techniques for inspiring habits, preferences, and loyalties in consumers. These practices reflect and even define the very culture in which they exist."
Gabriella Covese's presentation focuses on the history of advertising. She writes: "Advertising is not static, and neither is American society. Our political involvements, geographic boundaries, favorite bands and a whole host of other features change over time. As these change, so does advertising. More products enter the market, and the simple 'this product is the best!' approach stops working."
Susan Smulyan is professor in the Department of American Studies at Brown University. Learn more about the history of this partnership in the Brown Daily Herald.