Friday, September 5, 2014

Yale Launches Depression-Era Photo Archives Tool

Ben Shahn, 1935, "resident of Smithland, Kentucky"
During the Great Depression, the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) hired photographers to travel across America to document the toll taken by the economic collapse and the effect of government relief efforts. Between 1935 and 1945, well-known photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans took part in this massive photography project. The resulting photographs, over 170,000, were catalogued and eventually housed in the Library of Congress. Several years ago, the LoC digitized the images, but the sheer volume has made searching through them difficult.
    Now the Yale University Public Humanities program, working with a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, has launched Photogrammar, a web-based platform that assists in organizing, searching, and visualizing the historic photographs. The Photogrammar platform allows one to search through the images by photographer and, via great interactive county-level maps, by place. Additional tools are under development.
    The Photogrammar project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The project's principal investigator is American Studies professor Laura Wexler, director of the Photographic Memory Workshop; co-directors are Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold.