News from the Reference Desk Category: History

Color Images of America in the Great Depression

In response to the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt called for the creation of several assistance agencies.  One of these was the Resettlement Administration (RA) created in 1935.  The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created out of the RA in 1937.  This agency was formed to help struggling farmers and sharecroppers.  It’s historical section was headed by Roy Stryker.  He organized a team of photographers who documented hardships across the country, especially in the Midwest and California.  Many of the black and white images they created such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” are well known.  Not so familiar are the color photographs that were taken of farmers, workers, and children.  In a new book called New Deal Photography, USA 1935-1943 author Peter Walther has created a survey of the work done by the photographers of the FSA.  These images vividly show the hard life of many ordinary people during a time of great struggle in America.  A few of the images can be seen here.  Walther’s book is currently on order at MPPL.

Women’s Work in World War I

Women have always participated in support work during wartime.  This was especially evident during World War I.  Women served in a variety of capacities sometimes very close to the front lines.  The National Archives holds a vast collection of photographs in its collection of War Department records. You can see several photographs of women at work during World War I in the Unwritten Record Blog prepared by staff at the National Archives.

Women's Land Army WWI

Home Movie Day, October 18

Older photographs and home movies are rich treasures of family history.  Have you been wanting to look at and preserve your older home movies?  The Center for Home Movies ( has designated October 18 as the day to do just that.  Over 100 museums and film societies across the world are hosting special events where people can bring their films, view them with others, and get professional guidance about how to best preserve them.  The free Chicago-area event is being held at the Chicago History Museum on October 18 from 11 AM to 3 PM.   At this event you will be able to watch the films with musical accompaniment by silent film pianist, David Drazin.  For more information about this event click here.


Photographs from the Field Museum

Chicago’s Field Museum is known for its notable specimens numbering over 24 million.  Did you know that the museum also has tens of thousands of photographs in its collection?  Many of them are available online at  The photos include scenes from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and historic photos from Africa, Peru, the South Pacific and the United States.  This collection documents the history and architecture of the Museum, its exhibitions, events, staff and scientific expeditions.

Civil War Images from The New York Times

The American Civil War occurred 150 years ago yet images of its battles remain provocative.  They remind us of what war is really like and how its wounds can resonate for decades.  The New York Times has created a video of still photos which are available in historical archives.  The link to this video is

Film “Lincoln” sparks visits to Springfield, IL

Box office success of Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, has boosted public interest in the life of Abraham Lincoln, and visits to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL

If you were drawn to the film, you may want to visit the Illinois Digital Archives collection of Lincoln documents from the State Library and the Illinois State Archives.


Finding an apartment with is a new website using social networking to search for an apartment. Similar to the consumer-reviewed site Yelp, users can leave remarks of buildings they currently or used to live in. You can also create your own RentSocial profile using your info from Facebook. The site gives an “activity feed,” where building owners, friends and neighbors can post messages. It’s all free of charge to users (the site makes money by charging building owners a monthly fee to be listed).

Library of Congress: Historic American Newspapers

The Library of Congress has a website which allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1860-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).