"Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream"

Through March 12, 2017

Throughout the twentieth century, the automobile has met our practical needs for transportation while simultaneously reflecting and even creating new desires and personal identities. “Driving Desire" explores the relationship between automobile advertising and Americans’ car buying decisions. This provocative exhibition features more than one hundred artifacts and historic images, drawing heavily from Hagley’s Z. Taylor Vinson collection of transportation ephemera.  

“Mad Men,” a term popularized by the AMC show by the same name, refers to the advertising professionals entrenched on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue in the 1960s. These firms, along with others across the country, have influenced American buying decisions.

Wherever you are on the socioeconomic ladder, purchasing a car is a major decision. “Driving Desire” asks you to consider whether you bought the car you needed or were sold the car you wanted. Through the exploration of six major automobile advertising themes—luxury, performance, safety, style, economy, and patriotism—guests will uncover many of the ways Mad Men have attempted to affect their purchasing decisions. Rare original advertisements, historic artifacts from Hagley collections, highly engaging hands-on activities, and an original 1958 Metropolitan (guess how Hagley got a car on the second floor!) will challenge guests’ understanding of how advertising has influenced their decisions.

The exhibit is open daily at 10 a.m. For today's hours, visit the Hours & Directions page.