They really ought to hand out merit badges after one learns to navigate the cumbersome Library of Congress (LOC) web site. Intuitive it is not!

Thus, when any institution makes discovering the contents of loc.gov easier, well by golly praise must assuredly follow. I wish to heartedly thank Yale University and the National Endowment for the Humanities for a fantastic new “Photogrammar.”  In their own words, the “Photogrammar” is“a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing” 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945, stored at the LOC. Two institutions; the United States Farm Security Administration, and the Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) snapped these mostly black and white photographs. They reveal America’s experiences during the Great Depression and World War II.

The drop down list shows some of the photographers who participated in the FSA-OWI campaigns 1935-1945

The drop down list shows some of the photographers who participated in the FSA-OWI campaigns 1935-1945

What’s really great about the Photogrammar is its interactivity. When you click onto the interactive map, about 90,000 photographs are arranged by state and county. Simply zoom into an area of the United States you wish to travel to, and voila, make a click and a small window let’s you know how many FSA-OWI photographs are available for you to view.

Or, one can use the drop down arrow and pull up the work of some of the photographers who participated in the FSA-OWI programs. Dorothea Lange is a great example, but one of my favorites also made the list: Russel Lee. His photographs of Japanese internment camps during the Second World War are iconic, and what he is most remembered for. But I also found some gems from 1940, when he toured Northern California.

This Russel Lee photograph was taken in December of 1940. Children drinking milk outside of a permanent camp for farm worker in Yuba, CA.

This Russel Lee photograph was taken in December of 1940. Children drinking milk outside of a permanent camp for farm workers and their families in Yuba, CA.

I like this one: taken outside of Yuba City in December. He got it right with the angle of that light and that one kid to the far right who seemed more curious about the photographer than his free milk. There’s also the permanent migrant camp in the background – orderly, tents in a row, two men, and two jalopies. Just a fantastic photograph demonstrating how California had worked to absorb the Dust Bowl refugees in its later stages.

The interactive USA map also includes counties found in Alaska and Hawaii. This, of course, brought up the war years – and off to Honolulu I went. Here, I discovered this haunting image of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

Aftermath of Pearl Harbor bombing, Hickam Field, Honolulu, HI.

Aftermath of Pearl Harbor bombing, Hickam Field, Honolulu, HI.

Taken by an unknown photographer, this is the rear view of hanger number 11. Gut-wrenching.

The Yale site also claims that more is on the way, including about 17,000 photographs that are colorized which can be manipulated through hue, saturation, and lightness.

All of this is based off of the “Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives” collection located on the LOC website. Thanks to the Yale and NEH partnerships for freeing America’s past imagery from the cumbrous clutches of the LOC archives. Merit badges for all!

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