PReserving our history

Hofstra students and their protective gloves at the Museum of PR

Hofstra students wore protective gloves as they handled artifacts at the Museum of PR

Edwards Bernays is often referred to as the “father of modern public relations” with good reason. A nephew of the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, Bernays was also an observer of human behavior. He understood early on that words and images could be used to persuade attitudes, publishing landmark books on PR including “Crystallizing Public Opinion” in 1923 and “Propaganda” in 1928. In 1923 at New York University, Bernays taught the very first public relations course. He planned and staged numerous events and campaigns on behalf of a wide variety of clients, and worked with several 20th century presidents from Calvin Coolidge to Ronald Reagan.

A chance meeting became a 10-year friendship between Edward Bernays and Shelley Zuckerman Spector, an award-winning public relations executive and faculty member at Baruch College. Professor Spector documented Bernays’ career through a series of videotaped interviews she conducted at his home. When Bernays died in 1995 at age 103, she gathered and preserved many of his books and artifacts. Her devotion to PR history led to the creation of the Museum of Public Relations in 1997, which found a new home just six months ago at the Baruch College library in Manhattan. The museum contains historical items from Bernays and the PR field’s most important pioneers and campaigns.

Shellie Spector

Shellie Spector and me with an early Edison light bulb

Twenty Hofstra students and I experienced the Museum of Public Relations last Friday and I urge all students and practitioners of PR to visit. Hearing and seeing Bernays talk about his life, touching artifacts from communication history (newspapers from the early 19th century, a telegraph, an Edison phonograph cylinder, a turn-of the century telephone and typewriter, books by PR trailblazer Ivy Lee, and much more) made PR’s past come alive for these 21st century students. Oohs, ahhs and wows filled the room as students touched and felt history in their hands.

Kudos to Shelley Spector for her labor of love. She’s preserving a one-of-a-kind time capsule that will ensure PR’s history endures. See the PR museum when you can. Learning history is the best way to learn about the future. Your thoughts?

52 responses

  1. Chris Hoffman | Reply

    My 8th grade history teacher’s favorite saying was, “History doesn’t repeat itself; ignorance does.” As I go through life, I find this to be true. The best way to learn about how to conduct ourselves in the present and future is by looking to the past. In this case, we can look at Edward Bernays and seeing how he pioneered his field and created something entirely new. In the same way, we always need to be innovating and trying new things in our field.

  2. It is great to see the development of a PR museum because of its growing relevance within society today. While it is a very young field, its impact on business, reputations and life in general is substantially expanding. The steps being taken today will one day be ancient history, and as the field of PR grows, it will be very enlightening to view the recording of data and artifacts today that will be seen in the distant future.

  3. So many people think of Public Relations as it is portrayed in movies. Publicists covering up celebrity mishaps and what not. Many are surprised to find out it it has roots in the early 1900s. One of the most impressive events that Bernay’s put together was the Torches of Freedom march: Made to make lucky strike ciggerettes popular with women.

  4. I really wanted to go on this trip, but alas, my schedule never seems to work in my favor. It must have been both strange yet interesting to create a museum for a friend you’ve known for years, but at the same time, that would have ensured the exhibit offered a more personal, in-depth look at his life. I also love that visitors can actually touch and interact with the artifacts. Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit the museum at another time!

  5. I majored in history for my undergrad and as a result, I view the subject as both pivotal but also see how often it is overlooked. As you suggested, history is essential because it gives us insight into the future and I’m glad professor Spector has been able to preserve and enlighten visitors of the museum, since PR is mostly discussed in terms of its modern-day practice.

  6. After reading about the PR museum and learning more about it i definitely would like to visit. I am already eager to sign up for the next trip to Baruch College and for the chance to meet Shelby Spector. Theres a lot about PR that i still don’t know and i can’t wait to visit. See you in class!

  7. Kimberly Minto | Reply

    Honestly I am not a big fan of history but I love seening where the ideas of today originated. PR is complex even to those who practice it, I think that everyone should really see this exhibit. This practice has really become an important part of the businesses and anything in the public eye and many people overlook how important it is. I can’t wait to see this exhibit.

  8. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend because I had work, so I am hoping to get there soon whether it’s another school trip or on my own. It definitely seems like I missed out.

  9. Rachel Massaro | Reply

    I think the museum brings an amazing new way that history can be fun for people in our generation. I think the artifacts she has gathered are incredible and I want to see them for myself one day as well. When I was hearing the stories from the other people in the class who went on the trip it really opened my eyes truly how long PR has been around and I don’t think many other people realize it has been around. Going to this museum and museums in general put a new perspective on history and I think seeing history for yourself sticks with you longer than someone just talking facts at you.

  10. I think it’s wonderful that there is now a museum showing public relations and its history. People question me so many times about wether or not pr is a “real” career since it’s not traditional career paths that most students choose. I really wish I could have went on this trip but I definitely plan on adding a visit to this exhibit to my bucket list.

  11. It is a common quote that, “history repeats itself.” I believe that this is true and if I didn’t have a prior commitment I would have loved to enjoy the museum. I think as prospective pr professionals we have a lot to learn about the industry and I think that we can learn a lot from what has already happened.

  12. It is often said that today is yesterday’s future and what we do today becomes tomorrow’s history. Humans build on history and it runs across all facets of life. It is great to have somewhere and someone to look back at in PR and Edward Bernays fits that class. One must also commend Shelly Spector for being part of the history. The PR Museum is a great idea.

  13. I think in order for someone to gain a deeper understanding of something, they ought to know how it originated. I think the PR museum is an excellent resource for teaching either current PR practitioners where the profession got its roots, or educating young students just entering it. Also, I find it fascinating that this museum is unique to New York, and was started by someone who knew Edward Bernays personally. I look forward to visiting this museum in the near future.

  14. Priyanka Singh | Reply

    This visit sounded like such an amazing experience for Hofstra students to gain a better understanding how Public Relations developed at the very start and where it has come now in the modern age. I think it’s only natural that we look towards the future and speculate on what is to come in the field, but it’s also important to understand the roots, how this all began, and why it has remained important in our society today.

  15. I think that it is very important that we preserve history and continue to learn from it. It sounds like it was such a great opportunity to “experience” history at the PR museum. I look forward to taking a trip to the museum and experiencing history for myself through the artifacts displayed.

  16. Having a museum dedicated to your field of study is very important! It give professionals and students a chance to really take a look at how PR has transformed. Shellie did a great job collecting and putting everything together. Hopefully I will check it out soon!

  17. I am honestly really sad that I couldn’t make it to this event. It looked like a lot of fun, and a really educational time. I may end up going on my own next time I am in the area. Seeing the roots of a profession is really special, and can provide wonderful insight as to how the profession functions. I must admit, I love the ties that Bernays and Edison have.

  18. Learning from history is indeed a great way to learn about the future. So often we take things that we “know” for granted without any thought about how it was that we originally became aware of it. Things that may seem obvious now were not always a given, it’s an amazing resource to have documents and timelines showing origination points, as well as progress.

  19. Edward Bernays was controversial for his time. Using events to get media attention versus print ads was brave considering it was the 1920’s. Last semester, I learned how Mr. Bernays hired models to smoke during an Easter parade in New York City. At this time, women were not allowed to smoke in public and if caught, were arrested. The models marched holding their cigarettes or what they labeled “freedom torches”. Of course smoking today isn’t a platform used to promote a product or confront taboos but it was a bold approach to marketing. I wonder where public relations would be today if Mr. Bernays and his associates did not put rhetoric, press releases or event planning on the map.

  20. I think it is a great opportunity to be able to experience and interact with historical objects related to PR first hand. It provides a different perspective and connection to the field of PR. Although I was not able to make it on the trip to the museum, I definitely plan on making a trip to Baruch to see the PR museum because I think it will be very interesting to learn more about the field I am pursuing a future in.

  21. Sounds like a great time. I’ve been to the Museum of Television & Radio (now called The Paley Center, I think) and had a similar experience. There’s also a mural in CBS’s Manhattan office depicting major historical events they’ve covered, and icons like Edward Murrow.
    Immersing yourself in a field’s past makes you really feel like a part of something larger. But it also makes you feel like there are still frontiers out there, and the changes in communications over the past decade represent an era just as new as exciting as earlier shifts, like the rise of television. It’d be interesting to see what displays these museums may have fifty years from now.

  22. Nicholas Taddeo | Reply

    Seems like I missed a great trip. Unfortunately I could not make it due to conflicting times with work. It would have been nice to experience first hand some of the things we’re learning about in class, rather then just reading about them. In my opinion, PR doesn’t get enough exposure and it’s people like Shelley Spector that help not only preserve, but introduce PR to the world.

  23. I had a great time at the museum. It was truly an amazing experience to be able to hold the artifacts and go back in time. I think this museum as it continues to grow will help change perceptions about public relations professionals. Bernays made history in many ways and we continue to do so behind the scenes. Everyone should be aware of this museum and understand that public relations has been around for longer than we think. This was an inspiring trip and I will encourage people to go as much as I can.

  24. Learning the origins of something you are passionate about is always an amazing and important experience. This museum presents me with an opportunity to surround myself with real PR history and that is something I definitely plan on taking advantage of. I can’t wait to check out Shellie’s work myself!

  25. I’m so excited to hear a public relations museum is getting some attention. PR is still relatively new, so it’s nice to hear that practitioners will have the opportunity to learn more about its recent past. I assume the museum will grow in size and information over time as the practice evolves. I’m very excited to grow with my major.

  26. It looks like going to the PR museum was very enlightening for everyone in attendance. I think that it’s great that we live close to New York City, where PR began and where many resources, like this museum, are available. It must have been surreal to hold such precious artifacts in your hands. I hope to visit Shellie’s museum one day.

  27. Jennifer Pizzurro | Reply

    What an incredible opportunity! It sure seems that the students who were in attendance had an excellent time and learned something new! I look forward to planning my visit to the museum!

  28. I think it is so important for this museum to exist. There are many elements that make up the field of PR. Sociology, psychology, literature, science and many other fields contribute to public relations. Too many people see PR as simply a form of advertising or marketing and think that it is simply a product of the media. There is history that dates back much further. To truly be a PR professional, one should be aware of where the profession came from. Having this museum available as a tool for practitioners is very valuable.

  29. Getting the chance to go to the Public Relations museum with you was an incredible experience. You never really know how big of an impact someone has on history until you understand and learn everything that they did. I never realized how much Bernays did to influence the building of interstate roads, would overlap in modern day. This one of the most influential trips I have been on, especially being an aspiring Public Relations practitioner.

  30. That was a great trip, That lady was such kind and nice. She talked a lot history stories. I really like the video at start. In that videos the classics PR people talked about original definitions of Public Relations. And for me the best part was that old school 3D glasses. So cute , and interesting. Just one thing was not enough, that was the museum was too small.

  31. Taylor Lawrence | Reply

    It’s really inspiring to learn of someone who is so passionate about their work and the work of others, as Shelley Spector is. I am seriously considering going to the museum now that I have heard you and some students speak so highly of it. History is so interesting to learn about especially when you can physically see and hold it in your hands. While some people hear the word museum and think, “how boring,” I am slowly learning that they are the exact opposite.

  32. Gabrielle Furman | Reply

    Although I wasn’t able to attend the trip because of my internship, it sounded like it was a fun experience to see how my major started. It must have been nice to also hear about it from someone who actually knew him and tell you about him. Learning about how it started and seeing what it is now is truly very different. People may only think it is about social media, but it is much more than that. Hopefully, people won’t forget how PR started and want to learn about it.

  33. Before taking this class, I had no idea that there was a public relations museum. I applaud Shelley Spector for all of the work she dedicated to this, it’s amazing that she was able to collect the old newspaper clippings and especially the Thomas Edison artifacts. Due to scheduling, I was unable to attend this trip, however, one day I would love to take a trip out and compare modern public relations practices with those first used by Bernays.

  34. Shelley Zuckerman Spector will go down in history for meticulously preserving and chronicling the history of PR. I applaud her for her ability to bring the past to life so that future PR practitioners can learn about the history of PR outside of the classroom. What better way to learn about the history of PR than from Bernays himself?

  35. Katherine Hammer | Reply

    I think it is incredible that Shelley Spector was able to preserve key moments in history and provide insight to the public of public relations’ history. I agree with your statement, “learning history is the best way to learn about the future” because without knowing what has been done and how it was done, we could not move forward. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the visit with the Hofstra students, but I am planning on going sometime this summer. I am excited to see how the profession I am pursuing began all those years ago.

  36. It is great to hear that such rich culture and history of public relations is restored in the museum. Learning about so many of the pioneer practitioners and actually getting the opportunity to view artifacts is extremely important. I definitely want to take a trip there to visit.

  37. When choosing my major I had absolutely no idea of the history of public relations. This museum exhibit appears to be incredible and I wish I was able to attend this trip. One day I plan on taking the trip there and learning and understanding the unique history of public relations.

  38. Cheyenne Padgett | Reply

    It is really cool to see how the past has shaped the future. I would have really enjoyed going to the museum and must put it on my to do list very soon. Talking got some other classmates, It seems like everyone had a great time!

  39. Learning history is the best way to learn about the future. It’s so that we do not repeat the mistakes and tragedies of our past. However, it is great the the PR industry has its history documented for all to see. Passionate PR professionals can see and understand how their position accumulated to make them successful professionals.

  40. Having a museum dedicated to Public Relations is a great way of educating people about the industry and profession. The museum serves as a gateway to the past and also showcases the changes and evolution the profession has undergone. To many others it gives them a perspective of what Public Relations is on a daily basis. The knowledge and information will better equip the general public on being a smarter and better consumers of the digital age.

  41. I had no idea there even was a PR Museum out there until I took this class. Learning history about any topic is important, we need to know about our past so we can learn from mistakes or ideas to make a better future. Even though time has passed the core values behind PR are still valued and apart of modern day PR.

  42. I actually was not aware of the PR Museum until this class. I think it is great that we are able to experience the history of Public Relations. It is extremely important to be able to learn from the people before us and also recognize the greats in the profession. Public Relations is a growing field however that does not mean that we cannot learn from the people who started the field in the first place.

  43. I think it is great PR history is preserved for future generations to experience. It is even better the museum is so close and easy to get to. I will definitely check it out in the future. It is important as PR practitioners to understand where our profession came from and how it evolved. I do believe the best way to learn is first hand experience and I thank Shellie for giving us the opportunity to do so.

  44. Whenever I get the chance, I would definitely take the time to go visit the public relations museum. Learning the history behind something that you are very interested in is one way to expand your knowledge about what you are passionate about. The museum is definitely a great way to show others who might not be to familiar with the works of public relations, how much public relations is needed in the community in which we live.

  45. “Learning history is the best way to learn about the future.” I could not agree more. It is important to know the history of what you one day want to become a part of. Knowing the background of what it took for PR to be what it is today is important. I hope to one day be able to visit this intriguing museum. Getting to see, touch, and learn about the preserved history of public relations sounds like a huge honor. I am interested to learn more about the public relations field, especially its history in how it became what it is today. As a field PR is constantly growing and evolving, it is important to know what its roots are.

  46. Indeed, “Learning history is the best way to learn about the future.” It was such a privilege to attend this museum filled with history and artifacts. The public relations history that I learned in class not to long ago, was brought to life through this museum. Furthermore, Shellie was so passionate about the public relations historians, like Edward Bernays,”the father of modern public relations.” Her passion inspired me to learn more and more about such intelligent people in the early PR industry. My favorite part of the visit was reading a telegraph from Herbert Hoover and being able to hold the Edison light bulb. This place gave me more of an appreciation for an industry that is so complex.

  47. I am excited to visit the PR museum someday! It’s great that Bernays’ work was able to be preserved and that the history of the field can be shown to the public. The museum may serve to break down some negative associations with PR, and show that it is a profession with a rich history built on honesty and integrity.

  48. I think its amazing that there is a museum dedicated to the practices and discoveries that have made the field of public relations what it is today. It’s amazing how far we have come and how one can see how public relations has evolved over time. Seeing artifacts such as a typewriter or phonograph just shows how technology has always had an impact in public relations. The museum is a place I will definitely have to visit some day!

  49. Nicholas Mazzarella | Reply

    Professor Morosoff:

    It’s interesting that Edward Bernays’ ideas are still relevant to public relations despite so many years having passed since his time. The museum sounds great, and the fact that Shelley Zuckerman Spector actually spent time with Bernays makes it that much more informative. Reading about history is a good way to learn, but watching those interviews and touching those artifacts adds a whole new dimension. I like how you said, “Learning history is the best way to learn about the future.” I agree – many new developments are extensions of things that were around in the past.

    -Nick Mazzarella

  50. I think a PR museum is a great idea. It’s so important to preserve history and to create a place for future generations to go and see what their career was like in its early years. Museums are such an important part of our society because they preserve the past.

  51. I think the public relations museum is wonderful because many people sometimes overlook how important PR is to our modern world. Our profession started somewhere and in order to fully understand it, we must surround ourselves with the original history and culture of it. I wish I was able to go with the group of Hofstra students but I will definitely be planning a trip so that I can see the museum and learn more about the history of public relations.

  52. Sarah Holzberg | Reply

    I feel that many people just think Public Relations came about when social media became part of our world. I think what Shellie has put together is incredible and I look forward to seeing it for myself. I do believe that the best way to have a true understanding of history is to experience it, museums have done that for us.

Leave a Reply to Ariana Queenan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: