Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Mediated Histories of Advertising. Museum Exhibitions and Digital Archives

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Mediated Histories of Advertising. Museum Exhibitions and Digital Archives

Article excerpt


We are today in the midst of a golden age of contemporary museums with new ones opening at short intervals and playing a popular role in the cultural life. A global phenomenon, in cities large and small, museums are settled in new signature buildings, are expanding their existing facilities or reconfiguring their current places. We are facing a contemporary boom of the cultural institutions that actually write / re-write the history of humanity, by displaying their collections and sharing multiple experiences with their visitors. From unique sites to expanding global networks, museums have nowadays become worldwide brands that attract millions of visitors annually. Contemporary art museums (Tate Modem), science museums (Science Museum London, Arts & Metiers Paris), fashion or design museums (V&A London, Design Museum London), ethnology museums (Tjibaou Cultural Center Noumea, Musée du Quai Branly Paris), history museums (Osaka Museum of History) are just some of the types of cultural institutions that deliver both information and entertainment to their viewers.

Still, in this array of arts and sciences, we find very few institutions dedicated to advertising: Musée de la Publicité in Paris, Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London, The Canadian Advertising Museum, The Advertising Museum Tokyo are the most important institutions of the kind and their activities in terms of exhibition programs (excepting maybe the Parisian museum) are highly problematic. We find it paradoxical, as advertising has already had a long history and it is also extremely popular (a whole series of public events such as The Night of the Ad Eaters or festivals like Cannes Lions or The Golden Drum in Portoroz dedicated to advertising are reaching massive audience and attendance). Yet, taking in consideration the multiple approaches on advertising there might be found several reasons and implications for this situation.

First of all, there is huge research on advertising that investigates it from different humanistic areas: sociology, psychology, communication or marketing. The most influential definitions of advertising are set from communication theories (O'Guinn, Allen, & Semenik, 1998) (Arrens & Bovee, 1994) and marketing (Kotier, 1994), that discuss advertising as either a communication process or an economic process, both categories describing it as a dynamic, continuously developing activity. The very status of advertising has been thoroughly debated, as well as its relation with other areas such as art, media, promotions, public relations, economics etc. This leads to infinite approaches on advertising, and a difficulty of configuring a unitary vision necessary for the existence of a museum.

Next, the massive amount of advertising creations, the numerous advertising agencies and the international competition between them, the globalization process and the quickly transformations of the area, as well as the constant need of Immediate responding to these developments, generate difficulties in documenting and archiving this endless ongoing information (taking in consideration qualitative and quantitative aspects that concern its evaluation).

Last, but no least, with the rapid expansion of Internet and the enormous possibilities of stocking information in digital forms, the construction of professional digital platforms with the purpose of documenting advertising leads to a seemingly lack of necessity for dedicated institutions (such as museums).

In this particular context, the purpose of this article is to investigate the manners in which the history of advertising is actually written, by discussing two types of representations - within the curatorial practices of museum exhibition displays (set both in real spaces, based on different type of works/exhibits and online, in virtual museums), and within the online advertising archives (based on infinite quantity of digital content), stating that we are faced with multiple histories of advertising mediated by the particular device of their settings. …

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