First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I have been having serious battles with my computer all week (we’re at around 18 kernel panic shutdowns thus far), and today has been no exception. Let’s just all say a quick prayer and cross our fingers that this post is not going to have to tide you over for weeks and weeks. 😉 Saving my work has become a serious tic now, though; this seems to me both good and bad.
There have been repeated threats that I was going to talk about an amazing resource for history lovers, art fans, architecture buffs, and really just about any living human being—the Library Of Congress’ Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)—with you, and today seems like a good day to do so.
How this massive online source of art, photographs, old books, sheet music, and more came to my attention I really can’t recall, but it was a most fortuitous day. The collections offered are fairly astounding in their breadth and depth, and if you ever need something worthwhile with which to devour your time, the PPOC is it.
According to the PPOC itself, over 1.2 million images have been digitized for the collection; some are thumbnail size due to rights concerns, but many are full-size and downloadable; most of my posts for the Gertrude Kasebier post were from the PPOC’s collections. It looks like most or all of the material in the catalog can actually be purchased, too, via the Library’s Duplication Services.Despite having known about it for some time, and occasionally browsing when opportunity presents itself, I’ve hardly plumbed the depths (this post is going to be difficult to finish, because searching for things to include, I keep seeing things that threaten to distract).
There are parcels and snippets of American and even world history in the PPOC, works ranging from political cartoons and caricatures to drawn and photographed architectural studies and the photograph collections of news organizations from sea to shining sea. Thus it is well worth exploring no matter your passions, because you are bound to find something of interest. But let’s take a virtual peek at what’s there!
The main catalog is easy to access: It is at http://www.loc.gov/pictures.
The screencap shows but an itty-bitty portion of the collections available. Ansel Adams’ photos of Americans of Japanese descent wrongly interned at Manzanar; multiple cartoon & drawing collections; prints and glass negatives from the War Between The States (I have Southern friends, now); posters from the Spanish-American War; the Arnold Genthe collection; Japanese art prints from before 1915 (this collection I
spent some time perusing, and it is beautiful); the famous Look Magazine collection; building surveys; negatives given to the LOC from the Wright Brothers‘ estate; a collection of prints dating from 1450 to the present including works by, oh, Mary Cassatt and Paul Revere; a collection of 700 daguerreotypes; and photographs and fabulous posters from the famed Ziegfeld shows (many of which are NSFW—they’re pretty risque for the era, though of course those familiar with Ziegfeld is aware of that.); and even photos from my own home state, Michigan, in the Detroit Publishing Company collection! And that just barely scratches the surface. There are old movie posters floating around in the PPOC, too.
It’s a ridiculous collection. You can see why I warned you about the potential for time lost from your life. And that does not even bring into account informative articles written by staffers about the various collections, or the blog posts.
Sure to be of interest to many are the FSA photographs taken during the Great Depression, between 1935 and 1944. Of course, many of these images are actually propaganda, but some of the photographers put to work by the government remain famous today (Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, for instance). We’ll start with one of the FSA images by Walker Evans.
On a specific item’s page, you are given as much information as the PPOC has available, from title, creator, and date to how the Library of Congress came into possession of the work and what format it is in—this Walker Evans photograph, for instance, is a 35mm nitrate negative! As you can see, on this page, the untitled photo of a barn being used to advertise a circus coming to a town near Lynchburg, Virginia is only a thumbnail—but if you look closely, you’ll see options beneath the thumbnail, including those to view the image at a larger size and even download JPEG and TIFF files.How do you like that? (That dancing pony poster—wouldn’t that be grand, hanging in the entryway? Note the curling bits of a Morton’s Salt poster at the top of the wall, too.) I love photos like this one, of which the collection is full—looks at America’s and the world’s past, opportunities to see the way things were. Of course, photographers are selective about what they shoot, just as painters are selective about what they draw and how, but we’re still getting a good look at what was. So this is the sort of work in the collection that appeals to me most, I have to say.
As you can see by the caption, the PPOC is not entirely sure what that particular Walker photograph is from, but they’ve made an educated guess based upon the rest of the Walker Evans work from the FSA collection.The collection is very easy to navigate. You can search by artist, subject, whatever you like (though there’s even a helpful page of search tips). Piece of cake. So…let’s see what there is to see in the collection!
One of the newly digitized collections, about which the PPOC is justifiably excited, is the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, “a dedicated advocate of the garden beautiful movement in the early 1900s.” My kind of woman! Of course, what gets my attention? The PPOC’s inclusion of a shattered lantern slide, one posted to demonstrate the fragility of the items and the LOC’s reticence to let them out and about:Still a beautiful image, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll do a full post on Johnston and her work, as she’s certainly someone after my own heart in her subject matter and style.
Okay, okay, enough from my beautiful home state of Michigan. But…but…it’s gorgeous!
Not only a wonderful scene, but all of those curious faces peering into the lens!
The PPOC has the largest known collection of WPA artworks, with over 900.
I will confess to finding myself wondering why in the world the federal government was using dollars taken from starving Depression taxpayers to teach sand-castling (I suppose underwater basket-weaving was right down the hall), present operas, promote travel in a nation that was rationing fuel, and so forth, but even so note that much of the work produced by the WPA have become iconic and certainly influenced artwork afterwards.I’ll bet someone could figure out a nearer date on these items by taking a sharp look at the packaging! What a lovely group of young ladies, all so stylishly dressed. I do wonder what they were studying. The one in the front row with her book seems to have heavy things on her mind—chemistry? Physics? Another bookworm. His shy expression is so endearing! A perfectly tidy farm in Georgia.
This is part of J.P. Morgan’s personal collection of Civil War drawings, which he donated to the Library in 1919. The eyewitness drawing was originally published in Harper’s Weekly as part of an article about General Custer’s movement across the Rapidan. If you ask me, it is a well-done drawing, especially considering the conditions it was done in. It’s part of the larger Civil War Collection; a little more about the J.P. Morgan collection can be read here.
I’d say this woman is one to be respected whether she’s bearing a whip or no! The photo is one of 188 from a collection full of images from the frontier days as live din Wyoming and South Dakota. This is an era that fascinates many, myself included.
Just imagine walking down those streets in 1888! I do have 1892 for you:
Isn’t that just marvellous? The Grabill collection, like so many, is chock-full of fascinating things—including one of America’s most famous horses (at the time, at least—I doubt many have any idea who Comanche is anymore).Incredible, really. Of course, it is unlikely that Comanche was truly the only survivor—no doubt the Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes took quite a few living horses captive. Captain Myles Keogh’s gallant little Comanche, who had been wounded in previous battles and always recovered, somehow escaped this. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it was ordered that Comanche (who had become honourary Second Commanding Officer of the 7th Cavalry) never be ridden again; he died November 7, 1891 at the estimated age of twenty-nine. I didn’t expect to ‘see’ Comanche here!
Lovely, don’t you think?
I mentioned the Japanese art, which is so beautiful, and which I’m dearly enamoured of. It was difficult to pick just a few examples to share (there’s a collection of newer Japanese works as well).
One of the things I really like about the Japanese works is that they are images of everyday life, much like some forms of photography. Though they may look exotic to Western eyes, to the Japanese and their neighbors, many of these prints are of very mundane activities!Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Say, look at that—the rule of thirds! It really is universal. That said, to my mind, the Japanese have really perfected the art of pleasing the eye.
The varying styles between artist are fascinating to see as well. I could easily go on and on posting the Japanese work, but won’t. You may find it all here.Isn’t that darling?!
Well, that was hardly an exhaustive look, and mostly “this is what caught Jen’s eye today”. I do hope you enjoyed it and will find the PPOC of use yourself when it comes to inspiration and research, as there is much to be gleaned from it.
Copyright Note: All of the images here are noted “No known restrictions”, and are being used in accordance with the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Act, as my only intention is to share the works as examples. If, however, you own the rights to any of these images and would like them removed, please do not hesitate to ask and I’ll do so right away.