Popular, Material, and Consumer Culture

Studying culture is one of the critical ways researchers can investigate and interpret people’s lives. Looking specifically at popular, material, and consumer culture helps identify the objects, events, artistic movements, and other aspects of cultural life that people value. Most importantly, these studies help explain the significance of cultural phenomena, especially regarding how and when it is used, by whom, and for what purposes.

The Hagley Library has numerous sources for examining culture in France. These collections’ strengths are twentieth-century popular, material, and consumer culture. The papers of designers Raymond Loewy and William Pahlmann, in addition to detailing trends in interior decoration, describe numerous goods, consumer trends, and popular fashions in France. Ernest Dichter’s research reports provide in-depth descriptions of consumer products and attitudes. French firms commissioned Dichter’s European office to do reports, which provide valuable information on their wares and the people who bought them.

Records of companies that produced consumer goods are another source for studying French culture. Firms such as AvonRCA, and Seagram sold products throughout Europe and did extensive market research to maximize sales. The records of companies operating in France help researchers understand their products and intended markets.

Other Collections:

Lammot du Pont, Jr., Aeronautics Collection -- This collection includes prints, photographs, and ephemera on French aircraft and pilots from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Records, Series II -- Series II of the Du Pont Company records encompasses the firm’s activities during the twentieth century. Items from the company’s chemical divisions include information on consumer products developed for European markets.