WPA Writers' Project Highlighted To celebrate the writers and literary legacy of each of the 50 states, in 1984 the Center for the Book established the "Literary Heritage of the States" project. This endeavor had a dual inspiration.
The first was the Federal Writers' Project (FWP), which was established in 1935 as part of Federal Project Number One of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The second was the series of 26 exhibitions and catalogs marking state anniversaries that the Library, under the initial leadership of Librarian of Congress Luther Evans (1945-1953), produced between 1946 and 1972.
In recent years, the national Center for the Book and several of its 29 state affiliates have developed projects in the spirit of the FWP and the LC state anniversary projects; each heightens public awareness of regional, state or local literary and cultural traditions.
On Nov. 8, 1986, the Florida Center for the Book sponsored an all-day symposium, "Rediscovering the 1930s: The WPA and the Federal Writers' Project," which assessed the significance of the FWP, particularly in Florida, and celebrated the opening of the FWP special collection in the Broward County Library. Five participants of the Florida conference (Jerre Mangione, Stetson Kennedy, Bernard Weisberger, Alan Jabbour and John Cole) took part in the December 1994 program at the Library of Congress (see story on p. TK).
Also participating in the 1994 Washington conference were Florida Center for the Book Director Jean Trebbi and Margaret Bing, who runs the Broward County Library's New Deal Arts projects special collection.
For information about this collection, which is especially strong in FWP materials, write Margaret Bing, Broward County Library, 100 S. Andrews, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.
"Uncle Sam in the Oregon Country," a joint project of the national center and the Oregon Center for the Book, is a traveling exhibition reproduced largely from the collections of the Library of Congress -- including its New Deal arts materials. The exhibition, which opened in 1990, illustrates how the federal government has shaped and affected Oregon's history and culture.
"Uncle Sam in the Oregon Country," a 30-panel traveling exhibition, is accompanied by a 250-item checklist. Three of the panels describe the New Deal in Oregon and include reproductions of items from the Oregon FWP, Federal Theatre, Federal Art and Historical Records Survey projects.
For information, write or call Ellen Fader, Oregon Center for the Book, Oregon State Library, Salem, OR 97310-0642.
In March 1992 the Library of Congress received a grant of $503,329 from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund for the Center for the Book's "Literary Heritage of the States" project (see LC Information Bulletin, Sept. 7, 1992). The grant supported "Language of the Land: Journeys into Literary America," an exhibition seen at the Library of Congress September 1993 through January 1994 and at state centers for the book across the country through July 1995.
Featuring literary maps from the Library's Geography and Map Division and photographs from the New Deal's Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division, the exhibition also uses the words of writers to illustrate how Americans' views of various regions of the country have been influenced and shaped by literary voices.
The Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund grant to the Center for the Book also supports publications, programming at the state centers to enhance the exhibition and extend its message to schools and the general public and the development by state centers of new state literary maps.
In November 1992 the Library honored FWP veteran Jerre Mangione with an exhibition, "An Ethnic at Large: Jerre Mangione and the Federal Writers' Project," which was developed by the Library's Interpretive Programs Office. The Center for the Book sponsored a symposium and, with LC's American Folklife Center, a reception.
As coordinating editor for the FWP, one of Mr. Mangione's principal responsibilities was to obtain trade publishers for the FWP's state guide series, one of the best-known and most enduring legacies of the New Deal arts projects. At the symposium, Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole paid a special tribute to Mr. Mangione's ebullience and persistence. Dr. Cole explained that a footnote about the Library's WPA collections in remote storage in Mr. Mangione's history of the FWP ( The Dream and the Deal, 1972) led to an inventory of those collections and stimulated interest throughout the Library in all of its New Deal arts collections.
In 1992 the Virginia State Library and Archives, in cooperation with the Virginia Center for the Book, sponsored the publication of a reprint edition of Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, with a new foreword by Garrett Epps. Compiled by the Virginia Federal Writers' Project, the 710-page volume was originally published by Oxford University Press in 1940. The reprint is available for $35 from the Virginia State Library and Archives, 11th Street at Capitol Square, Richmond, VA 23219-3491.
The Dallas Public Library, the Texas Center for the Book, and the University of North Texas Press collaborated in 1992 to publish -- for the first time -- The WPA Dallas Guide and History, which was written and compiled from 1936 to 1942 by the workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the City of Dallas. The 450-page book is available from the Texas A&M University Press, Drawer C, College Station, TX 77843, or call (800) 826-8911. The price is $35 plus $3 for shipping and handling.
The Wisconsin Center for the Book, part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, is developing a project that explores the WPA arts projects in Wisconsin. Furthermore, it has proposed a session on the subject at the 1995 annual meeting of the Oral History Association. Specific topics would include the Wisconsin FWP's state guide, an unpublished FWP history of Milwaukee County, WPA and the visual arts in Wisconsin, the planned community of Greendale, Wis., the WPA collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin-related WPA collections of the Library of Congress.
For information, write or call Faith Miracle, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1922 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53705- 4099, phone (608) 263-1692.
"Amassing American `Stuff:' The Library of Congress and the Federal Arts Projects of the 1930s," by John Y. Cole. The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 40 (Fall 1983): 356-389.
Documenting America, 1935-1943, ed. by Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly W. Brannan. Berkeley: University of California Press (in association with the Library of Congress), 1988.
Free, Adult, Uncensored: The Living History of the Federal Theatre Project, ed. by John O'Connor and Lorraine Brown. Washington, D.C.: New Republic Books, 1978.
Pickaxe and Pencil: References for the Study of the WPA, compiled by Marguerite D. Bloxum. Washington: Library of Congress, 1982.