The Great Depression and World War II: American Memory

The Library of Congress exhibition of color
transparencies of the Depression and WW II era is fascinating and
beautiful.

For reasons that are a mystery to me, I am fascinated by the history of the U.S. during the Great Depression and the era that includes WW II. Perhaps it’s because it’s a coming of age period, the in-between time of childhood innocence moving toward hard adult experience. I don’t know.

I discovered the Library of Congress exhibition of color transparencies, America from the Great Depression to WW II recently and it’s a feast for the eyes.

I knew about the collection of black and white photos in archives in Washington, D.C. I once spent an afternoon thumbing through these images. It was close to being in heaven. The Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information gave photographers (and writers, too) assignments to document U.S. life during these times of great social struggle. The result is some of the most fascinating social documentation in the history of the country. Some, such as Dorothea Lange’s image of a destitute migrant mother with six children who was a pea picker subsisting in a camp in Nipomo, California, have become icons.

But I was not aware that both FSI and OWI have color transparencies in their collections. It comes as a delight to see these color photos. I’ve posted four here but if you’re like me and you get into this period of our history you might want to go to the online exhibit and look at the whole collection in gallery view. The images are not only a delight, they are a good remembrance on this Memorial Day.

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