With 160 years of publishing behind it, the New York Times remains the paper of record in the U.S. But a lot of what’s in that record is advertising–and the Times, through its new “Madison” project, is looking to catalog and archive all of that, too.
In order to go through the 16 decades of advertising, the Times is crowdsourcing a fairly reasonable exchange for its users: you can look at any page in the archive, selected at random, in exchange for clicking a button indicating what kind of ad you’re looking at. The options: “Exactly one ad,” “Multiple ads,” “Part of an ad,” and “Not an ad.” More advanced contributors can take on the task of tagging the ad by company and type, or even transcribing the ad content, to make it fully searchable.
Roughly one out of every four ads that is randomly displayed will be for something interesting: a stylish car ad from 1960, or an ad for a cruise departing on November 15, 1969. We’ve seen classic ad archives before, of course, but the interesting thing about the Times‘ project is that these aren’t curated–which increases the chances of finding a hidden gem. Like, say, an ad for a long out-of-print book by author S.J. Wilson that declares “If you think abortion can’t be funny, you haven’t read To Find A Man.”
With 160 years of publishing history, it’ll probably take a while for the process to be complete, which gives users plenty of time to scour the archives looking for–and tagging–fascinating lost pieces of history. Give it a look–and learn that, apparently, “Orange juice is delicious–even without Smirnoff!“