Yale Presents an Archive of 170,000 Photographs Documenting the Great Depression

dorothea lange

Dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, The Farm Secu­ri­ty Administration—Office of War Infor­ma­tion (FSA-OWI) hired pho­tog­ra­phers to trav­el across Amer­i­ca to doc­u­ment the pover­ty that gripped the nation, hop­ing to build sup­port for New Deal pro­grams being cham­pi­oned by F.D.R.‘s admin­is­tra­tion.

Leg­endary pho­tog­ra­phers like Dorothea Lange, Walk­er Evans, and Arthur Roth­stein took part in what amount­ed to the largest pho­tog­ra­phy project ever spon­sored by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. All told, 170,000 pho­tographs were tak­en, then cat­a­logued back in Wash­ing­ton DC. The Library of Con­gress became their even­tu­al rest­ing place.

walker evans

We first men­tioned this his­toric project back in 2012, when the New York Pub­lic Library put a rel­a­tive­ly small sam­pling of these images online. But now we have big­ger news.

Yale Uni­ver­si­ty has launched Pho­togram­mar, a sophis­ti­cat­ed web-based plat­form for orga­niz­ing, search­ing, and visu­al­iz­ing these 170,000 his­toric pho­tographs.

arthur rothstein

The Pho­togram­mar plat­form gives you the abil­i­ty to search through the images by pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Do a search for Dorothea Lange’s pho­tographs, and you get over 3200 images, includ­ing the now icon­ic pho­to­graph at the bot­tom of this post.

Pho­togram­mar also offers a handy inter­ac­tive map that lets you gath­er geo­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion about 90,000 pho­tographs in the col­lec­tion.

And then there’s a sec­tion called Pho­togram­mar Labs where inno­v­a­tive visu­al­iza­tion tech­niques and data exper­i­ments will grad­u­al­ly shed new light on the image archive.

Accord­ing to Yale, the Pho­togram­mar project was fund­ed by a grant from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties (NEH). Direct­ed by Lau­ra Wexler, the project was under­tak­en by Yale’’s Pub­lic Human­i­ties Pro­gram and its Pho­to­graph­ic Mem­o­ry Work­shop.

rothstein 3
Top image: A migrant agri­cul­tur­al work­er in Marysville migrant camp, try­ing to fig­ure out his year’s earn­ings. Tak­en in Cal­i­for­nia in 1935 by Dorothea Lange.

Sec­ond image: Allie Mae Bur­roughs, wife of cot­ton share­crop­per. Pho­to tak­en in Hale Coun­ty, Alaba­ma in 1935 by Walk­er Evans.

Third image: Wife and chil­dren of share­crop­per in Wash­ing­ton Coun­ty, Arkansas. By Arthur Roth­stein. 1935.

Fourth image: Wife of Negro share­crop­per, Lee Coun­ty, Mis­sis­sip­pi. Again tak­en by Arthur Roth­stein in 1935.

Bot­tom image: Des­ti­tute pea pick­ers in Cal­i­for­nia. Moth­er of sev­en chil­dren. Age thir­ty-two. Tak­en by Dorothea Lange in Nipo­mo, Cal­i­for­nia, 1936.

lange bottom

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Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Har­vard Puts Online a Huge Col­lec­tion of Bauhaus Art Objects

Down­load for Free 2.6 Mil­lion Images from Books Pub­lished Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

130,000 Pho­tographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Avail­able Online, Cour­tesy of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty

The Medieval Mas­ter­piece, the Book of Kells, Is Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

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