Tag Archives: Retro

Digest Anyone?

As an amateur historian, it’s easy to get into the trap of using “established” resouces in which to do our research.  Scholarly papers, donated collections, first-person interviews, these are all the first things we all think of.  However, this morning, I thought it would be a great time to discuss one of my favorite resources:  The Reader’s Digest!  Here’s why….

Looking at Popular Culture!

With the passage of time, our capacity and understanding of popular culture fades, mixing in with personal recollections and biases.  With the Reader’s Digest (and other popular media resources) we can capture a sense of opinion and the issues that faced everyday persons during the timeframe we are investigating.

 A Mix of Stories!

With the passage of time, our capacity and understanding of popular culture fades, mixing in with personal recollections and biases.  With the Reader’s Digest (and other popular media resources) we can capture a sense of opinion and the issues that faced everyday persons during the timeframe we are investigating.  For example, in the November 1960 issue, we have the following:

  • How to Win an Election
  • A Trip Withe the Titan–From Blast-Off to Target
  • Red China Reaches for World Power
Now you might think “so what”, but if we step back and look at 1960, it was the time of increased pressures with the USSR and the still-present threat of the “Red” menace that had overtaken many at the time.

 

These stories above give us insight into what opinion leaders and others were thinking.  From a historical perspective this is invaluable and can certainly add weight to any book, lecture or other type of research.  Too often, though, resources such as this are overlooked, especially the farther back one’s research goes.

 

 It’s the Advertisements Silly!

Finally, one of the best things about looking at resources such as the Reader’s Digest are the ads.  With the advent of “Mad Men” and other retro television shows, advertisements from this era are still appealing, interesting and unique!

 Need More?

While I’ve only just scratched the surface of what is available, this might be opening up your thoughts!  In that light, the following links can help you to find your own research, do some investigation, or just have fun!  I have yet to find any digitzed Reader’s Digests online, but maybe the following can be just as informative!  Have fun!

Google Books (Search for Life, Popular Mechanics, and others).

SI Vault (Sports Illustrated).

Plan59.com (Vintage Ads).

Ad*Access (Duke University).