The stories of our families are told through many forms of documents. Family photographs, however, are unique because they have visually captured moments in time that now only live as memories. A discarded photograph album lead a writer in New York to the story of black families that lived in the Crown Heights neighborhood of New York City during the middle of the 20th Century. This writer, Anne Correal, describes the journey she undertook to discover whose photographs they were and how the album was left forsaken on the street. Her article “Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street” appeared in the New York Times in January 2017. It traces the paths that many African American families took from the Deep South to the North in an event known as the Great Migration. Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a book in the Library’s collection which also illuminates this event in American history. There are now also other books and videos on display in the Library which document African American history. If you are interested in learning more about your own family’s history and managing your own family photographic collections, come talk to our Research Services staff who will help you get started.
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 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.
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 http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/department/library/photo-archives/collections. 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.