From the Director

From the Director

American businesses in the mid-twentieth century sought new ways to connect with the public to promote their products and services and ensure they were perceived in positive ways. The emerging field of corporate public relations offered tools and strategies to help diverse industries influence public opinion and advance their objectives. During this period, photography was flourishing as a vehicle for reaching wide audiences.

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School is very pleased to present the exhibition Photography and Corporate Public Relations: The Case of U.S. Steel, 1930 – 1960 and to introduce the United States Steel Photographs collection to the research community.

The U.S. Steel photograph collection is an illustrative “case” of the intersection between photography and corporate public relations. One can easily see the parallel between mid-twentieth-century corporate deployment of photographs and the reliance of companies today on a vast array of social media platforms to promote their services and products and influence public opinion on a global scale.

The exhibition also reveals how industrial photographs can be appreciated on many levels. They present the historical record of the manufacturing plants, processes, and products of one of the world’s largest steel producers during momentous years for the industry. At the same time, the photographs are unique works of art, many taken by renowned and distinctively talented photographers. This duality—corporate historical record and work of art—can be seen in many photographs in Baker Library’s extensive holdings of industrial photography.

The guidance and insight of HBS faculty was crucial to the creation of Photography and Corporate Public Relations: The Case of U.S. Steel, 1930–1960.  We are profoundly grateful to Benson P. Shapiro, Malcolm P. McNair Professor of Marketing, Emeritus, and to Alvin J. Silk, Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus. We appreciate their support and enthusiasm for our work and collections.

This project would not have been possible without the guest curator Melissa Banta, whose keen eye, artistic sensitivity, and thoughtful research have culminated in a rich examination of photography and corporate public relations in this crucial era. Working with Melissa is always a pleasure, and we look forward to future collaborations.

We benefited enormously from the skill of the Photographic Conservation Team at the Weissman Preservation Center, Harvard University Library. Under Erin Murphy’s leadership, Elena Bulat, Candace Kang, and Lisa Clark spent many hours conserving these unique images. We would also like to thank Amanda Malkowski of United States Steel Corporation for her support for this project.  

Every exhibition is the result of collaboration within Baker Library Special Collections. We are grateful to Benjamin Johnson, who created a comprehensive finding aid that allows researchers to explore the U.S. Steel photograph collection. Sincere thanks are due to our exhibition team members—particularly Debra Cuoco, Melissa Murphy, Heather Oswald, Melissa Renn, Christine Riggle, and Clarissa Yingling for their knowledge, support, and enthusiasm.

Laura Linard
Director, Baker Library Special Collections

November 2019

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