Welcome to His Electronic Materials

Let’s go on an adventure.

Step 1: Press play. Close your eyes and feel the decades changing.

The Playboy Project

Owing to Editor-in-Chief Hugh Hefner’s upbringing as a Methodist, Drew University Library contains a large, ever-expanding collection of Playboy magazine issues, spanning from 1955 to 2018 (bulk 1955-1979). Born originally as the “His Electronic Materials” project of the 2021 Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), The Playboy Project proposes to study this collection through a variety of social and political lens with a particular focus on the ways in which Playboy constructed a culturally aware, technologically capable, pleasure-seeking brand of masculinity.

The Playboy Project: His Electronic Materials

As the first and primary focus of The Playboy Project, “His Electronic Materials” aims to study how Playboy magazine constructed its ideal male reader (the urbane “Playboy” that readers were encouraged to emulate) as someone who was savvy with consumer electronics and home media technologies, and who was able to use these technologies to enhance his social status and overall image, and to further his sexual conquests. The goal of this team is to provide a basis for further analysis into the relationships between technology, consumerism, and constructions of masculinity through the mid-to-late 20th century.

Over the course of the four-week DHSI, Dr. Andrew Salvati and Candace Reilly, along with students Tessa Bagby and Julia Pietro, worked to digitize any and all content within the Playboy collection relating to emerging technologies. This consisted of scanning and cataloging advertisements, articles, photographs, cartoons, and other images from the library’s Playboy collection that relate to consumer electronics and which help to elucidate the magazine’s particular construction of technological/hegemonic masculinity. Working closely with Drew University’s Digital Scholarship Technology Manager and Art History Librarian, Danielle Reay, this dataset was used to construct an online, searchable database that will help to visualize the research and make it publicly available online. This database will be the first of its kind to study Playboy, and will be expanded on for years to come. 

In the summer of 2022, The Playboy Project was renewed as a DHSI initiative, and Dr. Salvati, together with Drew University students Avianna Miller and Maura Kelly, continued the work of scanning content relating to electronic technologies and adding to the HEM database. In addition, the 2022 team began the careful work of analysis, adding data visualizations of the scanned materials to this site, and created critical interpretations of selected images using the Storiiies digital annotation tool. These can be found in the Blog section in the above menu.

As an ongoing project, the goal of this team is to continue adding to this dataset as the archive acquires more Playboy issues, with this site as home to other academic delvings into Playboy with different thematic focuses.