Propaganda

Designs that persuade, advise and frighten – all governments use propaganda to a greater or lesser extent.

Freiwillige vor fur die U-Boot-Waffe! U-boat Volunteers Forward (animated leaflet)

Source: © Crown copyright

Freiwillige vor fur die U-Boot-Waffe! U-boat Volunteers Forward (animated leaflet)

A major exhibition at the British Library will aim to not only document the origins and extent of propaganda but also to change people’s perceptions of what propaganda is – featuring seemingly innocuous items such as Tufty Club road safety posters.

The Tufty Club
Some propaganda from the Tufty Club

Jude England, head of social sciences at the British Library, who co-curated the show with Ian Cooke, says, ‘We want visitors to consider the role of propaganda in their own lives today, as well as look at the state’s use of propaganda throughout history.

US War Food Administration pamphlet
US War Food Administration pamphlet

‘That’s why, as well as displaying iconic pieces of propaganda from the library’s collections, such as posters from both World Wars, the Cold War and Vietnam, we’ll also be focusing on more surprising examples, such as the 2012 Olympics and even Twitter – things you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a word like “propaganda”.’

The Green Cross Code man (in Welsh)
The Green Cross Code man (in Welsh)

As Tom Mullarkey, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – creator of Tufty – says, ‘Although it might seem strange to consider him as propaganda, the British Library’s exhibition is a fitting reminder of Tufty, his powers of persuasion and his enduring legacy as artwork.’

Tufty Club road safety sheet
Tufty Club road safety sheet

As well as the road safety squirrel, the exhibition will also feature other UK ‘propaganda’ such as a board game commissioned by the Milk Marketing Board to encourage children to drink more milk.

Board game commissioned by the Milk Marketing Board
Board game commissioned by the Milk Marketing Board

And this charming series of Czech matchboxes, featuring health warning – such as ‘You drink too much, stop it!’:

Health warnings on 1960s Czech matchboxes
Health warnings on 1960s Czech matchboxes

Of course there will be more orthodox examples of propaganda, such as this World War Two anti-Fascism poster:

Franklin Roosevelt’s message to young people (illustrated with Hitler mask and skull)

Source: © Crown copyright

Franklin Roosevelt’s message to young people (illustrated with Hitler mask and skull)

And this mural of the late Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela:

Hugo Chavez mural
Hugo Chavez mural

The exhibition also features a series of propaganda films, courtesy of the British Film Institute, such as the coughs and sneezes public health adverts starring Richard Massingham and the AIDS campaign narrated by John Hurt.

Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, runs from 17 May-17 September at the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1.

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