a Thanksgiving special: images from the Farm Security Administration

While The Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photograph collection

Detroit (vicinity), Michigan. Girls harvesting medicinal(?) plants

has been part of the Library of Congress’s collection since the 1940’s, only recently the black and white negatives were digitized and made available online.

The Farm Security Administration began as a result of the New Deal as part of the Department of Agriculture. In an effort to document the work of the Department’s programs, photographers traveled throughout the United States and Puerto Rico to observe and capture a changing America. The project initially documented cash loans made to individual farmers by the Resettlement Administration and the construction of planned suburban communities. The second stage focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording both rural and urban conditions throughout the United States as well as mobilization efforts for World War II.

Well-researched and trained in documentarian techniques, they were encouraged to photograph everything and anything relevant to their assignment. The byproduct of this effort included jobs for artists and a rich archival record. The photos document everything from farm communities to the development of early suburbs. The collection includes images from photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee, among others.

This collection consists of a bounty of over 100,000 images. Feast your eyes on this slice of American heritage!

Family harvesting milo maize

Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries announce open access policy

Just as the semester draws to a close and summer is on the horizon, scholars and art

Roomy by the Sea, by Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper, "Rooms by the Sea," 1851. Yale University Art Gallery

aficionados have another reason to celebrate: Yale University has announced an open access policy for its collections. Gone are the days of licensing images from Yale or having restrictions put on their use; interested parties can now use these collections at will. Yale is the first ivy league university to make its collections openly accessible, and already has over 250,000 images available from its museums and galleries. For more information and some great quotes from Yale staff regarding this decision, please read the artdaily article.

Historian’s Eye

The Historian’s Eye, created by Yale University professor Matthew Frye Jacobson, is a collection of over 1,000 digital images and audio archive addressing contemporary issues. Started in 2009 to document the historic moment of President Obama’s inauguration through photographs and interviews, the collection has since evolved to include  images related to the “2008 economic collapse and its fallout, two wars, the raucous politics of healthcare reform, the emergence of a new right-wing formation in opposition to Obama, the politics of immigration, Wall Street reform, street protests of every stripe, the BP oil spill, and the seeming escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide.” According to the project’s creator, the Historian’s Eye seeks to “trace the fate of “our better history,” as the nation faces unprecedented challenges with a president at the helm who is fully inspirational to some, palpably unnerving to others.  In addition to catching this moment like a firefly in a mason jar, the project seeks to encourage a new relationship to history itself—a mental habit of apprehending the past in the present and history-in-the-making.” In addition to viewing Jacobson’s images on the Historian’s Eye website, users are encouraged to participate in this project by contributing to the Historian’s Eye Flickr group. This is a fantastic collaborative resource for those interested in exploring contemporary issues and documenting history as it happens.


For those of you who attended the 2010 GIS fair last November, you heard UCLA’ Dr. Todd Presner speak about his project, Hypercities, and are probably already familiar with what it has to offer. If not, read on.

As described on the GIS fair keynote abstract, “Hypercities is a collaborative digital mapping platform that explores the layered histories of city spaces. Awarded one of the first “digital media and learning” prizes by the MacArthur Foundation/HASTAC in 2008, HyperCities is an interactive, web-based research and teaching environment for authoring and analyzing the cultural, architectural, and urban history of cities.” Using Google Maps and Google Earth, users can go back in time to explore cities of centuries past, analyze how cities change over time, and interact with the maps through social media. The fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories.

More information, as well as some “how-to”s can be found at the Hypercities website. To start using this tool, click on “launch Hypercities” at the top. From there, select a city that  you would like to explore, and then choose a map from the menu bar at the right. Users can add as many layers of maps as they want, select the opacity for each map, export metadata, and view ‘collections,’ which are projects that other people are working on with those same maps.

It can be a bit clunky at first, but once you get the hang of it it’s a lot of fun to play around with.

Works Progress Administration Posters

By the People, For the PeoplePart of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, the By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress’s collection of more than 900 is the largest. These striking silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. The posters were made possible by one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts and were added to the Library’s holdings in the 1940s. (Text and images from By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943)

Tuberculosis PreventionPrints for the People One third of a nation

A Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University

A Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University is a collection of primary resources from HBCU libraries and archives. It includes several thousand scanned pages and represents HBCU libraries first collaborative effort to make a historic collection digitally available. Collections are contributed from member libraries of the Historically Black College and University Library Alliance.  The collection includes photographs, university correspondence, manuscripts, images of campus buildings, alumni letters, memorabilia, and programs from campus events.  These images present HBCUs as cultural, social, and political institutions from the early 1800’s until today.  See information on copyright and use.  (Text and image from collection website.)

“The Commons” on Flickr

Flickr is home to “The Commons,” a public photo collection that began in 2008 as a collaboration between Flickr and the Library of Congress. It has since expanded to include over 45 institutions, including NASA, the Imperial War Museum, and the New York Public Librar. The Commons is host to thousands of images covering a breadth of subjects, all copyright free.

Users are invited to add tags and descriptions to the photos, making the collection richer and more accessible.

Opening History Portal

Opening HistoryThe Internet can be a Wild West environment, and it can be frustrating to locate related visual resources on a given topic when those resources reside on hundreds of different websites.  The Opening History web portal seeks to make this task less onerous by providing organized access to digital resources pertaining to United States history and culture.  Within this aggregation of resources is a growing body of visual images from a wide range of libraries, museums, and archives. Currently, images are being aggregated from over 600 digital collections on the Internet.  Through a single subject search, you can locate related images from dispersed collections.  Opening History is an extension of the IMLS Digital Collections and Content (IMLS DCC) project, a collaboration among the University of Illinois Library, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a Federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership, and a lifetime of learning.