June 22, 1998 Never-Before Printed Images From The Great Depression to World War II Go On-Line

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

For years researchers have yearned to examine the thousands of negatives that were never printed for the internationally renowned Farm Security Administration (FSA)-Office of War Information (OWI) photographic collection. On June 26, they will be able to view nearly 45,000 printed and unprinted FSA-OWI images from 35mm film. The images can be viewed at the Library's American Memory Web site at http://www.loc.gov/.

"Individuals, educators and scholars of the history of photography alike will benefit from this release of images from one of our most popular collections," said Linda Ayres, Chief of the Library's Prints and Photographs Division.

"America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information, 1935-1944" forms an extensive pictorial record of American life and includes some of the most famous documentary photographs ever produced. Created by U.S. government photographers, they show Americans at home, at work and at play. In the early years, the photographs emphasized rural life and the hardships caused by the Great Depression, farm mechanization and the Dust Bowl. In later years, the photographers turned their attention to the mobilization effort for World War II.

This release includes several unprinted images from Walker Evans's photographs that led to the classic book published with writer James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. This first release of FSA-OWI photographs also includes work by Ben Shahn, Gordon Parks, Marion Post Wolcott, Carl Mydans, John Vachon, Jack Delano, John Collier and others.

The release marks the first phase of a project to make available all 164,000 black-and- white negatives -- both printed and unprinted -- from the FSA-OWI collection. Additional images and text will be added to the database quarterly. These black-and-white photographs link to the more than 1,600 FSA-OWI color images available since 1995 on the Library's American Memory Web site.

According to Donna Lacy Collins, the Prints and Photographs Division Preservation Specialist, the availability of new database software has permitted a level of access impossible to provide earlier. New access features include visual browsing of each film frame and the ability to view a "contact sheet" of related strips of film that may provide caption information for the unprinted negatives. Another feature permits close study of individual frames. All negatives in the archive, such as double-exposed and partial frames, have been reproduced, so that scholars of specific photographers can reconstruct working techniques and the editorial practices of New Deal offices.

The Web site offers the opportunity for the Library to incorporate revisions and supplementary information gathered in subsequent years. Special presentations in this release include exhibitions of popular images, Library staff favorites, portraits of the photographers and a bibliography that includes references to related Web sites.

American Memory is a project of the National Digital Library Program, which aims to make available on-line millions of items from the Library's incomparable American history collections. Collections include Civil War photographs, early films of Thomas Edison, sound recordings and panoramic maps. "America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information, 1935-1944" is a collaborative effort of the National Digital Library Program, the Prints and Photographs Division and Information Technology Services.

Note to Press: Walker Evans's famous photo of Greensboro, Ala., from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, is available at http://memory.loc.gov/pnp/fsa/8a44000/8a44600/8a44636r.jpg.


PR 98-096
ISSN 0731-3527