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September 15, 2014 / carlispina

Explore Depression Era Photographs With the Yale Photogrammar

Yale PhotogrammarBetween 1935 and 1945, the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information commissioned thousands of photographs by a number of well-known and highly skilled photographers. These photographs document life throughout the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. Currently held and maintained by the Library of Congress, these photographs are now available online via the Yale Photogrammar. This website not only provides access to them, but also offers unique ways to search through the images and visualize the locations they document.

Users who wish to search through the 170,000 images included on the website will be pleased with the search features that are included on the site. In addition to a simple keyword search of the full text associated with each of the images, users also have access to advanced search features that make it possible to search through the collection by the name of the photographer who took the picture, lot number, classification tag, location, or date. Search results show a thumbnail of the images retrieved together with their titles, dates, and the name of the photographer who took them. Clicking on an image will take the user to a page with a larger version of the image, the full metadata for the image, and thumbnails of other, similar images.

The site also offers users the ability to navigate through the images geographically. Two different maps show the photographs organized by either county or by photographer (as seen in the image below). From either map, users can limit their results either using the dropdown menu to limit the visualization to only images from a single photographer or by using the slider to visualize only images from specific years. The maps only visualize about 90,000 of the images, since the rest do not have geographic information associated with them. However, despite this limitation, they provide an interesting way of viewing the images in relation to one another.

The Yale Photogrammar includes this Dot Map, which organizes the photos by photographer.

The Yale Photogrammar includes this Dot Map, which organizes the photos by photographer.

The creators of the Yale Photogrammar are also interested in finding new ways to visualize this collection and have therefore included a Labs section on the site. This area of the site, which will have more tools added to it in the future, visualizes the metadata associated with the images in the Metadata Dashboard section (currently only for California, but with more states under development) and offers a tree map of the classification system that Paul Vanderbilt developed for the photos in 1942.

Whether you are a history buff, a scholar, or a photographer, this site will offer endless hours of fascination as you explore not only the images but the relationships between them. It is already an impressive effort and the promised future developments will only make it more impressive.


One Comment

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  1. saa194 / Sep 16 2014 11:33 pm

    Nice post Carli! Looking forward to watching your blogs evolve although you already seem like an expert!

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