“It will be a museum.”
— Edward L. Bernays, March 1992
Shelley and Barry Spector collected historical artifacts and books about public relations since before they met Edward L. Bernays, the man often called the father of public relations. They visited Bernays several times a year at his Cambridge home from the time he was ninety-four, and documented their friendship for nine years.
With Bernays's boundless energy and bustling social calendar, they created a videotape record of those visits. Surrounded by his books and papers in the Museum, you can observe from many angles his determination to seek a higher level of status for the profession.
Bernays, during a party celebrating his 101st birthday, was asked what he saw happening with the vast volume of records and books he had accumulated from his longer-than-75-year career, that had lined his every bookcase, book shelf, corner and wall of his stout Cambridge mansion. He squinted into the distance ahead and proudly declared it would become a museum of public relations. It was an inspiration that validated the beginnings of the Museum of Public Relations already underway.
In 1995, after Mr. Bernays's death, the Spectors were invited by his family to meet at Eddie’s home to document the records that spanned his career and collect artifacts that had not already been promised to the Library of Congress. With those documents, the Spectors started an online museum, and over time they collected materials from and about leading public relations executives, including Carl Byoir, Moss Kendrix, Arthur W. Page, Ivy Lee and Dan Edelman, to name a few. The collection has grown to include more than 650 books, 100 hours of video interviews and 60 boxes of pamphlets and other objects. It became a rich resource for students; At least 70 people visited the Museum to research their dissertations before the 2000s.
The Museum of Public Relations today is a 501(c)(3) educational institution chartered by the New York State Department of Education to serve the world's growing community of public relations students, educators, researchers and practitioners. Its mission is to bring PR history to life; to explore and share the campaigns, crises and leading figures in public relations history as we watch new public relations history unfold.
Founded in 1985, it launched its first website in 1997, receiving a USA Today Hot Site Award in its first week. It is the world's only museum dedicated to the international public relations profession, revealing the history of the profession, and the role of PR in business, society culture and politics. Through its rare artifacts, oral histories, letters, photos and film, visitors learn about the profession's pioneers and their contributions to the practice, and experience the direct connection between social movements and the public relations programs that guided their underlying principles and philosophies.
Aside from its extensive digital archive of video interviews and its out-of-print books, the Museum conducts classes, and produces well-attended first-ever events events including the honoring the contributions of African Americans, Latinos, and PR Women Who Changed History.
For more information, please also visit prmuseum.org