American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936: Images from the University of Chicago Library
Historical Research Capabilities
Historical research is often stimulated by a lack of information or by questions about an issue, event, or item. American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936 contains many photographs that tell an incomplete story to those unfamiliar with the subject matter. For example, photographs depicting industries such as timber or mining at the turn of the twentieth century can provoke questions to stimulate and guide research into these fields.
Search on timber and lumber for images depicting the process and effects of harvesting wood. What questions do these photographs raise? Do outside research to learn about the processes of lumbering at the turn of the century. Then, create detailed descriptions of what these images depict. How did the lumbering industry operate and what was its impact on the environment?
- What is taking place in the photograph?
- Who are the people? What were their roles in the process? What was their socio-economic status likely to have been? Are they likely to have been immigrants? Where are they likely to have been from?
- Is there anything pictured that associates the image with a certain time in history such as a technique being used that was developed after 1910 or a tool or technology that only existed after a certain date?
For additional images to research, browse the Subject Index to find photographs with unfamiliar subject matter such as, "An Ungrazed and Overgrazed Andropogon Furcatus Prairie in July with Ptilimnium Nuttallii, Muskogee County, Oklahoma." This image clearly shows two distinct types of vegetation on adjacent fields. The caption states that one side is overgrazed and one is undergrazed. However, it is not readily apparent which side is which. What questions does this picture raise? What do you need to find out in order to understand it? Use your reasoning and research skills to determine which field is overgrazed.