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Experience the Event

Art, Culture, and Government:
The New Deal at 75

March 13-14, 2008, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

A Presentation of the American Folklife Center in collaboration with the Center for the Book, John W. Kluge Center, the Prints and Photographs Division, and the Digital Reference Team, with the Manuscript Division, the Music Division, the Rare Books Division, and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division

About the Symposium

Will Neal, fiddler, being recorded by Robert Sonkin and Charles Todd, Arvin Camp, CA,  1940.
(l-r) W. Neal, R. Sonkin & C. Todd, Arvin Camp, CA, 1940. AFC Collections. View the collection: Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941.

On March 13 and 14, 2008, leading scholars from throughout the United States joined experts from the Library of Congress in a free public presentation, Art, Culture, and Government: The New Deal at 75. The symposium at the Library, and similar events in the Washington, DC area, were aimed at re-focusing attention on the New Deal, the multi-faceted social, cultural, and fiscal recovery programs launched by the Roosevelt administration in 1933, to reform and reinvigorate national life in the wake of the Great Depression.

The Library presentation featured contemporary scholarship and recent discoveries inspired by the Library's unparalleled collections of documentary materials from that era. It highlighted the lasting impact this federal initiative has had on culture, documentation, and conservation. In a day-long symposium on March 14, invited scholars presented recent research based on New Deal materials, primarily case studies that demonstrated how innovative interpretation of the Library's archival holdings continues to inspire new revelations and reassessments of twentieth-century American culture.

Poster for the Indian Court exhibit at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, 1939-1940, showing Chippewa picture writing and a Seneca Indian mask.
Poster for Indian Court exhibit, Golden Gate International Exposition,San Francisco, 1939-1940.
Prints and Photographs Division. View the collection: By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943.

The Library events provided the public an opportunity to gain greater awareness of the Library's extraordinary collections of unique, primary documentation created by New Deal programs, including manuscripts, photographs, audio recordings, and graphic art materials. An especially exciting development for the scholarly research community was the unveiling of the guide New Deal Programs: Selected Library of Congress Resources during a unique afternoon program on March 13.The New Deal Web Guide provides an overview of special collections held by the Library of Congress and links to digitized materials and selected resources relating to New Deal programs in Library of Congress divisions. The guide also links to major collections of New Deal program materials held at other institutions.

In addition to the launch of the Web Guide, staff from several Library divisions, and colleagues from other government agencies, discussed and displayed a selection of materials from their New Deal holdings, including rare collections, recent acquisitions, and under-utilized treasures.

The Library events were complemented by programs at the National Archives and Records Administration, including a panel discussion, "Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932" on Thursday, March 13, at 7 pm and an all day festival of rare government-produced period films, For a Better America: The New Deal on Film, on March 15.

Orson Welles' costume design, Cardinal of Lorraine, for The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus; Federal Theatre Project collection, Music Division.
Orson Welles' costume design, Cardinal of Lorraine, for The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. Textile swatches and mixed media drawing, Federal Theatre Project, 1937. View the collection guide for the Federal Theatre Project Collection, Music Division.

Bibliography: Selected Resources on Folklife and the New Deal

You may wish to consult our selected list of books, essays, recordings, films and other resources, to familiarize yourself with the core concepts and themes that were addressed during the symposium.

Art, Culture and Government was a joint production of the Library's American Folklife Center, Center for the Book, John W. Kluge Center, Prints and Photographs Division, with the Manuscript Division, Music Division, Rare Books Division, and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the support of the National New Deal Preservation Association.External Link


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   May 15, 2015
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