The Dorothea Lange Digital Archive: Explore 600+ Photographs by the Influential Photographer (Plus Negatives, Contact Sheets & More)

Shortly before her death in 1965, one of the New Deal’s most famous photographers, Dorothea Lange, spoke at UC Berkeley. “Someone showed me photos of migrant farmworkers they had just taken,” she said. “They look just like what I made in the ‘30s.” We can see the same conditions Lange documented almost 60 years later, from the poverty of the Depression to the internment and demonization of immigrants. Only the clothing and the architecture has changed. “Her work could not be more relevant to what’s happening today,” says Lange biographer Linda Gordon.

As an American, it can feel as if the country is stuck in arrested development, unable to imagine a future that isn’t a retread of the past. Yet activists, historians, and therapists seem to agree: in order to move forward, we have to go back—to an honest accounting of how Americans have suffered and suffered unequally from economic hardship and oppression. These were Lange’s great themes: poverty and inequality, and she “believed in the power of photography to make change,” says Erin O’Toole, associate curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art




Among famous Bay Area colleagues like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, Lange is unique in that “her archive and all that material,” says O’Toole, “stayed in the Bay Area,” held in the possession of the Oakland Museum of California. Now, more than 600 high-resolution scans are available online at the OMCA’s new Dorothea Lange Digital Archive, which also “contains contact sheets, film negatives and links related to materials as additional resources for the many curators, scholars and general audiences accessing Lange’s body of work,” Emily Mendel writes at The Oaklandside

The digital archive will likely expand in coming years as the digitization process—funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation—continues. The physical archive is vast, including some “40,000 negatives and 6,000 prints, plus other memorabilia.” These were inaccessible to anyone who couldn’t make the “huge trek to OMCA,” Lange’s goddaughter Elizabeth Partridge—author of Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (2013)—remarks. The project is “the most important thing,” says Partridge, “that has happened to her work since it was given to the museum decades ago” by her second husband Paul Taylor. 

The online archive-slash-exhibit divides Lange’s work in four sections: “The Depression,” “World War II at Home,” “Post-War Projects,” and “Early Work/Personal Work.” The first of these contains some of her most famous photographs, including versions and adaptations of Migrant Mother, the posed portrait of Florence Thompson that “became a famous symbol of white motherhood” (though Thompson was Native American) and “moved many Americans to support relief efforts.” We can see how the iconic photo was taken up and used by the Cuban journal Bohemia, the Black Panther Party newspaper, and The Nation, who imagined Thompson in 2005 as a Walmart employee.

In the second category are Lange’s photographs of Japanese internment camps, unseen until relatively recently. “When she finally gave these photos to the Army who hired her,” Gordon notes, “they fired her and impounded the photos.” Lange’s skilled portraiture, her uncanny ability to humanize and universalize her subjects, could not suit the purposes of the U.S. military. “She used photography,” O’Toole says, “as a tool to uncover injustices, discrimination, to call attention to poverty, the destruction of the environment, immigration…. The protests that are happening today would be something she’d be photographing in the streets.”

Maybe in a digital age, when we are overwhelmed by visual stimuli, photography has lost much of the influence it once had. But Lange’s images still inspire equal amounts of compassion and curiosity. As Americans contend with the very same issues, we could do with a lot more of both. Enter the Dorothea Lange Digital Archive here

via Austin Kleon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

10,000 Vintage Recipe Books Are Now Digitized in The Internet Archive’s Cookbook & Home Economics Collection

“Early cookbooks were fit for kings,” writes Henry Notaker at The Atlantic. “The oldest published recipe collections” in the 15th and 16th centuries in Western Europe “emanated from the palaces of monarchs, princes, and grand señores.” Cookbooks were more than recipe collections—they were guides to court etiquette and sumptuous records of luxurious living. In ancient Rome, cookbooks functioned similarly, as the extravagant fourth century Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome demonstrates.

Written by Apicius, “Europe’s oldest [cookbook] and Rome’s only one in existence today”—as its first English translator described it—offers “a better way of knowing old Rome and antique private life.” It also offers keen insight into the development of heavily flavored dishes before the age of refrigeration. Apicus recommends that “cooks who needed to prepare birds with a ‘goatish smell’ should bathe them in a mixture of pepper, lovage, thyme, dry mint, sage, dates, honey, vinegar, broth, oil and mustard,” Melanie Radzicki McManus notes at How Stuff Works.




Early cookbooks communicated in “a folksy, imprecise manner until the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s,” when standard (or metric) measurement became de rigueur. The first cookbook by an American, Amelia Simmons’ 1796 American Cookery, placed British fine dining and lavish “Queen’s Cake” next to “johnny cake, federal pan cake, buckwheat cake, and Indian slapjack,” Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald write at Smithsonian, all recipes symbolizing “the plain, but well-run and bountiful American home.” With this book, “a dialogue on how to balance the sumptuous with the simple in American life had begun.”

Cookbooks are windows into history—markers of class and caste, documents of daily life, and snapshots of regional and cultural identity at particular moments in time. In 1950, the first cookbook written by a fictional lifestyle celebrity, Betty Crocker, debuted. It became “a national best-seller,” McManus writes. “It even sold more copies that year than the Bible.” The image of the perfect Stepford housewife may have been bigger than Jesus in the 50s, but Crocker’s career was decades in the making. She debuted in 1921, the year of publication for another, more humble recipe book: the Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church Ladies’ Aid Society of Chicago’s Pilgrim Cook Book.

As Ayun Halliday noted in an earlier post, this charming collection features recipes for “Blitz Torte, Cough Syrup, and Sauerkraut Candy,” and it’s only one of thousands of such examples at the Internet Archive’s Cookbook and Home Economics Collection, drawn from digitized special collections at UCLA, Berkeley, and the Prelinger Library. When we last checked in, the collection featured 3,000 cookbooks. It has grown since 2016 to a library of 10,600 vintage examples of homespun Americana, fine dining, and mass marketing.

Laugh at gag-inducing recipes of old; cringe at the pious advice given to women ostensibly anxious to please their husbands; and marvel at how various international and regional cuisines have been represented to unsuspecting American home cooks. (It’s hard to say whether the cover or the contents of a Chinese Cook Book in Plain English from 1917 seem more offensive.) Cookbooks of recipes from the American South are popular, as are covers featuring stereotypical “mammy” characters. A more respectful international example, 1952’s Luchow’s German Cookbook gives us “the story and the favorite dishes of America’s most famous German restaurant.”

There are guides to mushrooms and “commoner fungi, with special emphasis on the edible varieties”; collections of “things mother used to make” and, most practically, a cookbook for leftovers. And there is every other sort of cookbook and home ec. manual you could imagine. The archive is stuffed with helpful hints, rare ingredients, unexpected regional cookeries, and millions of minute details about the habits of these books’ first hungry readers.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Explore a Digital Archive of Student Notebooks from Around the World (1773-Present)

To bring back memories of your schooldays, there’s nothing quite like the sight of your old exercise books. This holds true whether you went to school in Ghana in the 2010sItaly in the 90s, France in the 80sChina in the 70sJapan in the 60s, or India in the 50s. All of these examples and many more have come available to view at the Exercise Book Archive, an “ever-growing, participatory archive of old exercise books that allows everyone to discover the history, education, and daily life of children and youth of the past.” All of the entries include the relevant book’s front cover — already a Proustian viewing experience for any who had them growing up — and some feature scans of the interior pages, student writing and all.

One girl’s notebook describes the bombing of her small town in 1940s Switzerland,” writes Collectors Weekly‘s Hunter Oatman-Stanford. “Another boy’s journal chronicles daily life in rural Pennsylvania during the 1890s; the diary of a Chinese teenager recounts his experiences in prison during the 1980s.” The article quotes Thomas Pololi, co-founder of the organization behind the Exercise Book Archive, on the historical value of books containing “compositions about war, propaganda, or political events that we now recognize as terrible.




But in the narration of children, there is often enthusiasm about the swastika in Germany, or the Duce in Italy (dictator Benito Mussolini), or for Mao in China.” (Thanks to the work of volunteers, these and other exercise-book writings have been transcribed and translated into English.)

These young students “tended to see the positive side of traumatic things, perhaps because their main goal is to grow up, and they needed to do it the world they lived in.” Their exercise books thus offer reflections of their societies, in not just content but design as well: “In Spain or in China,” for example, “you see beautiful illustrations of propaganda themes. They are often aesthetically appealing because they were meant to persuade children to do or think something.” Educational trends also come through: “Before, there were mainly exercises of calligraphy with dictated sentences about how you have to behave in your life, with phrases like ‘Emulation seldom fails,'” which to Pololi’s mind “implies that if you are yourself, you risk failing. That’s the opposite of what we teach children nowadays.”

Somehow the most mundane of these student compositions can also be among the most interesting. Take the journal of a group of Finnish girl scouts from the early 1950s. “The train to Leppävaara arrived quickly,” writes the author of one entry from April 1950. “At the station it started to rain. We walked to the youth house, where we sang ‘Exalt the joy’ etc. Then we went to the sauna where we had to be. We sang and prayed. We then ate some sandwiches.” Could she have possibly imagined people all around the world reading of this girl-scout day trip with great interest seventy years later? And what would the young man doing his penmanship nearly a quarter-millennium ago in Shropshire think if he know how eager we were to look at his exercise book? Better us than his schoolmaster, no doubt. Enter the Exercise Book Archive here.

via Collectors Weekly

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Internet Archive Will Digitize & Preserve Millions of Academic Articles with Its New Database, “Internet Archive Scholar”

Open access publishing has, indeed, made academic research more accessible, but in “the move from physical academic journals to digitally-accessible papers,” Samantha Cole writes at Vice, it has also become “more precarious to preserve…. If an institution stops paying for web hosting or changes servers, the research within could disappear.” At least a couple hundred open access journals vanished in this way between 2000 and 2019, a new study published on arxiv found. Another 900 journals are in danger of meeting the same fate.

The journals in peril include scholarship in the humanities and sciences, though many publications may only be of interest to historians, given the speed at which scientific research tends to move. In any case, “there shouldn’t really be any decay or loss in scientific publications, particularly those that have been open on the web,” says study co-author Mikael Laasko, information scientist at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki. Yet, in digital publishing, there are no printed copies in university libraries, catalogued and maintained by librarians.




To fill the need, the Internet Archive has created its own scholarly search platform, a “fulltext search index” that includes “over 25 million research articles and other scholarly documents” preserved on its servers. These collections span digitized and original digital articles published from the 18th century to “the latest Open Access conference proceedings and pre-prints crawled from the World Wide Web.” Content in this search index comes in one of three forms:

  • public web content in the Wayback Machine web archives (web.archive.org), either identified from historic collecting, crawled specifically to ensure long-term access to scholarly materials, or crawled at the direction of Archive-It partners
  • digitized print material from paper and microform collections purchased and scanned by Internet Archive or its partners
  • general materials on the archive.org collections, including content from partner organizations, uploads from the general public, and mirrors of other projects

The project is still in “alpha” and “has several bugs,” the site cautions, but it could, when it’s fully up and running, become part of a much-needed revolution in academic research—that is if the major academic publishers don’t find some legal pretext to shut it down.

Academic publishing boasts one of the most rapacious legal business models on the global market, and one of the most exploitative: a double standard in which scholars freely publish and review research for the public benefit (ostensibly) and very often on the public dime; while private intermediaries rake in astronomical sums for themselves with paywalls. The open access model has changed things, but the only way to truly serve the “best interests of researchers and the public,” neuroscientist Shaun Khoo argues, is through public infrastructure and fully non-profit publication.

Maybe Internet Archive Scholar can go some way toward bridging the gap, as a publicly accessible, non-profit search engine, digital catalogue, and library for research that is worth preserving, reading, and building upon even if it doesn’t generate shareholder revenue. For a deeper dive into how the Archive built its formidable, still developing, new database, see the video presentation above from Jefferson Bailey, Director of Web Archiving & Data Services. And have a look at Internet Archive Scholar here. It currently lacks advanced search functions, but plug in any search term and prepare to be amazed by the incredible volume of archived full text articles you turn up.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

500+ Beautiful Manuscripts from the Islamic World Now Digitized & Free to Download

Mathematics, astronomy, history, law, literature, architecture: in these fields and others, the Muslim world came up with major innovations before any other civilization did. This Islamic cultural and intellectual flowering lasted from the 11th through the 19th century, and many of the texts the period left as its legacy have gone mostly unresearched. So say the creators of Manuscripts of the Muslim World, a project of Columbia University, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and Haverford College aimed at creating an online archive of “more than 500 manuscripts and 827 paintings from the Islamicate world broadly construed.”

As UPenn Libraries Senior Curator of Special Collections Mitch Fraas tells Hyperallergic’s Sarah Rose Sharp, “The aim of this project was to find and digitize all the Islamicate manuscripts in Philadelphia collections and along the way we partnered with Columbia on a grant to take a multi-city approach.”




To the sources of its manuscripts it also takes a multi-culture approach, including “texts related to Christianity (Coptic and Syriac mss. galore), Hinduism (epics translated into Persian in Mughal India), science, technology, music, etc. but which were produced in the historic Muslim world.” There are also texts, he adds, “in Persian, Arabic, and Turkish of course but also in Coptic, Tamazight, Avestan, etc.”

If you can read those languages, Manuscripts of the Muslim World obviously amounts to a gold mine. (You may also find something of interest in the digital archives of 700 years of Persian manuscripts and 10,000 books in Arabic we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture.) But even if you don’t, you’ll find in the collection marvels of book design that will appeal to anyone with an appreciation of the lush aesthetics, both abstract and figurative, of these places and these times. Some of them aren’t even as old as they may seem: take the manuscript at the top of the post, “overpainted in the 20th century to mimic Mughal style.” Or the one below that, whose colophon “says the copy was completed in 1121 A.H. (1709 or 1710 CE),” which “does not make sense given the author likely lived in the 19th century.”

The other pages here come from a set of “illustrations from Qurʼānic stories” (this one depicting “Abraham sacrificing his son”) and a “Persian calligraphy and illustration album.” You’ll find much more in Manuscripts of the Muslim World, hosted on OPENN, the University of Pennsylvania’s online repository of “high-resolution archival images of manuscripts” accompanied by “machine-readable TEI P5 descriptions and technical metadata,” all released into the public domain or under Creative Commons licenses. Though each manuscript’s entry comes with basic notes, the collection is, in the main, not yet a thoroughly studied one. If you have an interest in the Islamic world at its peak of cultural and intellectual influence so far, you may just find your next big research subject here — or at the very least, material for a few hours’ admiration. Enter the collection.

via Hyperallergic

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Take a Virtual Tour of 30 World-Class Museums & Safely Visit 2 Million Works of Fine Art

Rosetta Stone

Since the first stirrings of the internet, artists and curators have puzzled over what the fluidity of online space would do to the experience of viewing works of art. At a conference on the subject in 2001, Susan Hazan of the Israel Museum wondered whether there is “space for enchantment in a technological world?” She referred to Walter Benjamin’s ruminations on the “potentially liberating phenomenon” of technologically reproduced art, yet also noted that “what was forfeited in this process were the ‘aura’ and the authority of the object containing within it the values of cultural heritage and tradition.” Evaluating a number of online galleries of the time, Hazan found that “the speed with which we are able to access remote museums and pull them up side by side on the screen is alarmingly immediate.” Perhaps the “accelerated mobility” of the internet, she worried, “causes objects to become disposable and to decline in significance.”

VG-Self-Portrait-1887

Fifteen years after her essay, the number of museums that have made their collections available online whole, or in part, has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing. We may not need to fear losing museums and libraries—important spaces that Michel Foucault called “heterotopias,” where linear, mundane time is interrupted. These spaces will likely always exist.




Yet increasingly we need never visit them in person to view most of their contents. Students and academics can conduct nearly all of their research through the internet, never having to travel to the Bodleian, the Beinecke, or the British Library. And lovers of art must no longer shell out for plane tickets and hotels to see the precious contents of the Getty, the Guggenheim, or the Rijksmuseum. And who would dare do that during our current pandemic?

For all that may be lost, online galleries have long been “making works of art widely available, introducing new forms of perception in film and photography and allowing art to move from private to public, from the elite to the masses.”

Kandinsky-Composition-II

Even more so than when Hazan wrote those words, the online world offers possibilities for “the emergence of new cultural phenomena, the virtual aura.” Over the years we have featured dozens of databases, archives, and online galleries through which you might virtually experience art the world over, an experience once solely reserved for only the very wealthy. And as artists and curators adapt to a digital environment, they find new ways to make virtual galleries enchanting. The vast collections in the virtual galleries listed below await your visit, with 2,000,000+ paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, and more. See the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum (top), courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute. See Van Gogh’s many self-portraits and vivid, swirling landscapes at The Van Gogh Museum. Visit the Asian art collection at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. Or see Vassily Kandinsky’s dazzling abstract compositions at the Guggenheim.

And below the list of galleries, find links to online collections of several hundred art books to read online or download. Continue to watch this space: We’ll add to both of these lists as more and more collections come online.

Art Images from Museums & Libraries

Art Books

Note: This post originally appeared on our site in May 2016. It has since been updated to include more art from different museums.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch More Than 400 Classic Korean Films Free Online Thanks to the Korean Film Archive

Even if you don’t know much about Korea, or indeed about film, it’s safe to say that you know at least one Korean film: Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which has circled the world gathering acclaim and awards since its release last spring. First it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Korean production to do so; more recently, it made film history even more dramatically at the Academy Awards. There it won Oscars not just for Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director, but also Best Picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to do so. For many viewers, Parasite and its director seem to have come out of nowhere, but lovers of Korean cinema know full well that they come out of a rich tradition — and a robust industry.

Maybe you thrilled to Bong’s suspenseful, funny, and violent tale of class warfare as much as the Academy did. Maybe you’ve even seen the work of Bong’s contemporaries: Park Chan-wook, he of the controversial hit Oldboy; the even more transgressive Kim Ki-duk; the prolific Hong Sangsoo, with his Woody Allen-meets-Éric Rohmer sensibility.




But do you know their sonsaengnimthe generations of Korean filmmakers who went before them? Now you can, no matter where in the world you are, on the Korean Film Archive’s Youtube channel. There, at no charge, you can experience decades of Korean cinema and hundreds of works of Korean cinematic art, including but not limited to those of mid-20th-century masters like Kim Ki-young, Im Kwon-taek, and my personal favorite Kim Soo-yong, director of haunting, even brazen pictures of the 1960s and 70s like Mist and Night Journey.

I actually met the then-octogenarian Kim Soo-yong a few years ago, when he called me over to his table out of curiosity about what a foreigner was doing at a screening of Mist. It happened at the Korean Film Archive’s cinematheque (known as Cinematheque KOFA) here in Seoul, where I’ve lived for the past few years. During that time I’ve also been writing a Korea Blog for the Los Angeles Review of Books, which occasionally features essays on the classic Korean films made available online by the Korean Film Archive. I began the series with Night Journey, and more recently have written up pictures like the 1960s neorealist cry of agony Aimless Bullet, the 1970s college-under-dictatorship comedy The March of Fools, the 1980s Westernization comedy Chil-su and Man-su, the 1990s food-sex-horror satirical mixture 301, 302, and others.

If you need more suggestions as to where to start with the KOFA’s more than 400 free films online, pay a visit to the Korean Movie Database (KMDb), where KOFA regularly post selections from their catalog. This month’s picks are “spy thriller films from the 1950s to 1970s infused with the anti-communist ideology during the time.” Previous months have rounded up “melodramas that are filled with women’s desire and craving for love,” films about “individual or family tragedies leading to historical tragedies,” and “heart-warming classical movies all the family members can enjoy together.” You can watch all these films either on the KMDb (which requires free registration) or on KOFA’s ever-growing Youtube channel. Either way, as we say here in Korea, 재미있게 보세요.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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