Introducing the J. Walter Thompson Newsletters Digital Collection

The JWT Newsletters digital collection consists of over 1,600 newsletters of the J. Walter Thompson Co. advertising agency from 1916 to 1986.  These internally distributed newsletters touch on myriad topics of interest to the company such as account and client news; general and client-specific marketing surveys; developments in print, radio, and television advertising and marketing research; as well as personnel news such as new hires, transfers, promotions, and brief biographical sketches.

Digital Projects and Production Services have been excited to digitize and provide access to the JWT Newsletter digital collection (see more information about the collection on one of our sister blogs, the Devil’s Tale).  We recently started using OCLC’s CONTENTdm (an access tool used by many libraries to provide access to digitized materials) as part of our public interface in July with the Duke Chronicle digital collection.  Incorporating CONTENTdm with our public interface has allowed us to provide new services to our patrons using collections like the JWT Newsletters.  These include:

  • Full text search of the JWT Newsletters – you can see your search results highlighted in the scanned images!
  • Patrons can download a PDF of any item
  • Advanced search by date range and/or full text
  • Use a page Flip View to turn the pages of a newsletter.

We have more projects planned in the future to take advantage of these exciting features.  In the meantime, please enjoy perusing the JWT Newsletter and learn more about one of the oldest and most prominent advertising agencies.


A page from a 1986 newsletter in the page flip interface.
A page from a 1986 newsletter in the page flip interface.


Ready for Prime-Time

On 5 July 2011, images from one of Duke University Libraries’ digital collections made a guest appearance on Episode 3 (Season 9) of the popular PBS show, “History Detectives.”

The segment, entitled “The Bullet That Fought America’s Secret Siberian War,” investigated the  origins of a curious example of “shell art”: a WorldWar I vintage cartridge-cum-letter opener, which was inscribed with the words “Geo. V. Thompson, CO E 31st Inf., A.E.F. Siberia.”  As the History Detective assigned to the case discovered, this piece of early-20th-century folk art had once belonged to a U.S. soldier, who was stationed with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Siberia, during America’s brief and unsuccessful intervention in the Russian Civil War.   Apparently, it was commissioned from a local artisan, who made his rubles selling souvenirs for American G.I.s eager to have an exotic memento of their stint of service in Siberia.  On the PBS website, viewers can watch the full episode (duration: 17:42), download the transcript of the show, and even read letters that George Thompson sent home from Siberia.

Viewers of the “Siberian Bullet” episode, and anyone else interested in further exploring America’s “Secret Siberian War,” can also consult the “Americans in the Land of Lenin” digital collection. This collection contains over 400 black-and-white photographs from Duke University’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, including images used in the History Detectives episode.  The collection provides unique visual documentation not only about U.S. involvement in the Russian Civil War, but also about daily life during war-time in an ethnically and religiously diverse region on the border of three major 20th-century powers (Russia, Japan, and China).  A YouTube video (duration: 2:44) and additional information about Duke’s digital collection of AEF photos can be found in the Fall 2008 issue of Duke University Libraries Magazine, which includes a shorter version of an article eventually published as “‘A Dirty Place for Americans to Be’: Images of the Russian Civil War in Siberia from the Robert L. Eichelberger Collection at Duke University Libraries,” Slavic & East European Information Resources, 10 (2009): 29–44.

The Duke Digital Collections Mother of the Year Awards

At this time of year, we here at Duke Digital Collections always like to celebrate the mothers who have been such major influences on us: Marge Simpson … Carol Brady … Clair Huxtable … the mother of all those melon-headed children in The Family Circus ….  Oh, also our own mothers.  The time of year we are referring to is, of course, Cinco de Mayo.  ¡Cinco de Mayo!  Also Mother’s Day, which we are also big fans of, although we would like it better if we associated it with half-price margarita pitchers.  Let’s take a moment to recognize some of the outstanding moms in our digital collections with the first annual Duke Digital Collections Mother of the Year Awards!

The “You Are Getting Sleepy … Very Sleepy” Award

Sometimes even the most devoted mother has days when every minute the children are still up is like a knife through her soul worrisome because the little darlings need their rest.  Back in the days before C-SPAN was invented, parents often eased their kids off to dreamland as early as 4 p.m. by gathering the whole family around the ole seed catalog.  Interestingly, at this photo shoot the boy on the left fell backwards off the ottoman immediately after this photo was taken and woke up 3 days later.  These days, parents get the same results by having the kids play a few minutes of Wii Seed Catalog after dinner. Continue reading The Duke Digital Collections Mother of the Year Awards

AdViews at the Internet Archive

AdViews Internet ArchiveAdViews, our collection of nearly 9,000 digitized vintage television commercials, is now available via the Internet Archive.  The videos had previously been accessible only through iTunes U.

Since we launched the first batch from the collection back in July 2009, the commercials have amassed over 2.5 million downloads and 700,000 previews in iTunes (viewing a video from within iTunes without downloading). There’s no doubt that AdViews has been popular in iTunes. We have heard from several patrons how easy it is to get the videos using this familiar software.  Others have downloaded tracks directly through the iPad’s own iTunes interface for viewing on-the-go outside of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  One patron even sent us a virtual hug.

But iTunes isn’t for everyone. We have heard from folks using computers in public libraries where they are unable to install the software. We have also gotten emails from Linux users unable to run iTunes. We aim to make our collections usable through familiar, user-friendly interfaces (such as iTunes), but it’s also important that they are as open and accessible as possible.  We are happy to now extend the collection’s reach to a broader audience.

As of this week, you can now access AdViews videos in three different ways:

  • Our website. Now from our web interface, click any track title and an embedded video player will pop out (courtesy of the Internet Archive).  There are buttons to view each video “album” (or “subcollection”) in either iTunes or the Internet Archive.
  • Internet Archive.  View the videos directly in your web browser.  You can download different sizes of MP4s, or even Ogg Video, if that’s more your thing.
  • iTunes U (iTunes software required).  View or download MP4 videos through iTunes on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.  Downloading will automatically add the videos to your iTunes library under the “iTunes U” category.

Special thanks go to Skip Elsheimer at A/V Geeks, Jeff Kaplan at the Internet Archive and Will Sexton here at Duke University Libraries for their contributions to this project.

Russian Posters Collection, 1919-1989 and undated

We are happy to announce the publication of the Russian Posters Collection, 1919-1989 and undated. The collection consists of 75 Russian posters, documenting almost 60 years of Communist political advertising.

The digitization and publication of this collection is timed to coincide with two public events, both of which involve Duke faculty using library holdings:

  1. The ongoing Nasher Museum exhibit Machine, Mother, Mannequin: The Good Woman in Soviet Propaganda, created by Prof. Beth Holmgren (Chair, of Slavic and Eurasian Studies Dept) and Angela Linhardt (M.A. candidate, Slavic and Eurasian Studies).
  2. The “World View Spring Seminar: Understanding Russia and Its Neighbors,” an event specifically for K-12 and community college teachers co-sponsored by the joint Duke-UNC Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies (a Federal Title VI Center).  Specifically, the images will be used today in a presentation called “Posters, Propaganda, and Perestroika,” to be given by Prof. Pamela Kachurin, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies/Slavic and Eurasian Studies, Duke University.

This is our first project to be completed using our new suite of tools for creating digital collections at Duke, including our newly redesigned web interface.  We will introduce some enhancements to the Russian Posters site over the next few weeks.

Please feel free to leave feedback and suggestions for this collection in the comments.

Elizabeth Taylor in Duke Digital Collections

Many of us awoke this morning to the sad news that legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor died today in Los Angeles.  She was best known for her amazing film work (we particularly like her in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and her colorful personal life, but like many other Hollywood stars of the era, she also appeared in a number of advertisements during her early career.  We have a couple of her print ads in our Ad*Access digital collection, and are highlighting them here.  You can click on the images to see larger versions and learn more about them.

This 1952 magazine ad for Lustre-Creme shampoo showcases Ms. Taylor’s famous beauty.  In addition to her two Oscars, we learn here that she was also voted by “Modern Screen” and “a jury of famed hair stylists” as one of the world’s 12 loveliest-haired women.  The film that’s also being promoted here, Ivanhoe, was released in 1952 and also starred Robert Taylor (no relation) and Joan Fontaine.  It was one of the four top money-making films of the year and was nominated for three Academy Awards.

In this comic strip-style ad, Elizabeth Taylor says “Like satin … that’s my skin with new Woodbury Powder!” and also, apparently, “I love the super-smooth finish Woodbury gives my skin.”  Here she’s identified as one of the stars of the 1949 film version of Little Women, in which she played Amy, starring alongside June Allyson as Jo, Peter Lawford as Laurie, Margaret O’Brien as Beth, and Janet Leigh as Meg.

It’s no wonder that an actress with Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary beauty was in demand by companies marketing their beauty products.  Many other stars of the day appeared in similar print ads; for example, June Allyson, Rita Hayworth, and Bette Davis all did work for Lustre-Creme.  The men of Hollywood did their fair share of advertising, too: here you can see Humphrey Bogart for National Airlines and Bob Hope for Pepsodent.  You can find many advertisements featuring celebrities in Ad*Access here.

Change Blog Readers Can Believe In – Tell Us What You Think!

The Duke Digital Collections Blog has been a bit quiet lately while our team has been concentrating most of its efforts on infrastructure building.  Now that we’re moving back into production mode, with lots of new digital collections and content coming very soon, we’ll be blogging more frequently, too.  So this seems like a good time for the Digital Collections Blog to gather information from you, our reader, in our first-ever feedback poll!

This is your chance to tell us a little bit about your blog-reading habits and what you’d like to see when you visit the Digital Collections Blog.  In the sidebar you’ll see an orange button that links to our short survey – we hope you’ll take a few minutes to help us learn how to create a better, more informative, and more entertaining blog. Of course, your responses and comments will be submitted anonymously, so click away!

We’ll be gathering responses through Friday, April 15th, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we’ve learned once the results are tabulated.

All of the other Duke University Libraries blogs will be running the exact same poll, so head over to the other blogs that you read and leave some feedback for them, too.


–Digital Collections Blog Team

Try Our New Digital Collections Site (Now in Beta)

I’m happy to announce the availability of a beta version of our new Digital Collections web interface, the result of the Tripod2 project at Duke. Try it now! It will be available “in beta” for a few weeks at so you can give it a spin and tell us what you think.

Over the next few weeks, we will be tying up loose ends so we can replace the existing site at


34,000 items from 22 digitized collections, cross-searchable in a common index. Includes a wide range of formats: photographs, advertisements, books, sheet music and more.

PDF export for items

Save or print a PDF of any item. Especially useful for our sheet music collections.

Zooming & Panning

Zoom in close on images to see the smaller details or read the fine print.

Continue reading Try Our New Digital Collections Site (Now in Beta)

Think Warm Thoughts

It’s been an unusually cold and snowtastic winter here in Durham, with what’s felt like a constant threat of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and the dreaded “wintry mix” hanging over our heads for weeks. The local news has been in nonstop Winter Weather Crisis mode, with round-the-clock footage of what we believe is the same group of itinerant (and possibly feral) children, who follow camera crews around with their pieces of cardboard and garbage can lids so we can see IDENTICAL FOOTAGE of them sliding down a snowy hill and squealing ALL THE TIME.

Most winters we have maybe one dusting of snow, or a few sleet pellets mixed in with the rain once or twice, so being threatened with the Icepocalypse every few days is something we’re not accustomed to. Every time we turn around, we are back at the grocery store kicking somebody in the back to get the last loaf of bread or punching somebody in the windpipe to grab the last gallon of milk. This is really more exercise than we are used to getting. And we won’t even talk about how the schools are constantly letting out early or just plain closed, resulting in selfish children wanting to be picked up or fed or whatever kids are into these days.

So to combat the winter doldrums, we here at Duke Digital Collections present some sunny, tropical images from Ad*Access to help you think warm thoughts. Put on your sunscreen, change into your skimpiest and most scandalous swimsuit, crank up “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s, and let’s hit the beach! (You can click on any of the images to see a larger version and more information about it.)

January is the perfect time of year to visit fabulous Runway Beach! Yes, nothing is more relaxing or romantic than lying on the beach sipping a margarita as you are strafed by a jet that fills your eyes and mouth with sand and blows the drink out of your hand. The smell of cocoa butter mixed with jet exhaust will make you contentedly lie back and say, “AaahhhhhAIIIEEEEEARGGGH KOFF KOFF KOFF.”

Continue reading Think Warm Thoughts