Artists in the Archive – Initial Research

When I look through the Library of Congress’ (LOC) website, I am mostly struck by how much life in the United States has changed.

The act of combing through the LOC forces me to expand my mind’s eye to encompass it all, and somehow it feels alienating. Where are we today in 2019, and what does it all mean?

The website tossed me around the collections, link by link. The experience created a cognitive dissonance as I flipped between the massive national narratives we tell ourselves, and the unexplained randomness of other items and people.

Below are some of the highlights that spoke to me.

One Room School House, South Pass Avenue near Jefferson Street, South Pass City, Fremont County, WY

This photo was the 7th or 8th item I looked at, and I immediately felt like everything in the LOC started to hang together. This one room school house created a sense of place, whereas the catalog’s links left me feeling unmoored.


Brian Diskin from IWU Local #380, Urbana-Champaign, IL. Diskin was interviewed and photographed at the 2011 IWU National Iron Workers Convention at the Sheraton Hotel on the Chicago River in downtown Chicago.

I found it to be refreshing to see a real person in the collections.

This man Brian Diskin was interviewed in 2011 as part of the Occupational Folklife Project, which documents the culture of contemporary American workers during an era of economic and social transition.

A Recipe for Project-Based Learning, a blog post for teachers about cook box recipes. It would be fun to make a project about recipe instructions.

Lomax Collection, 400 snapshot photographs made in the course of sound recording expeditions carried out by John Avery Lomax, Alan Lomax, and Ruby Terrill Lomax, between 1934 and ca. 1950.

I didn’t know the Lomaxes also took photos when recording American musical life!

Horned Owl|Josh, John (performer), Seminole Indian Reservation, Florida

It was hard to find audio in the LOC that I could actually listen to. Maybe I missed a link here or there.

The Great Train Robbery, Edwin Porter, 1903

Fun to see early film : )

Quilts from three contests in the 90s in the United States. I’m surprised the image aren’t online. But there are images from the “Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978 to 1996” collection held by the American Folklife Center.

Birthday related images, might be fun to make a chrome extension or website for people to send birthday images.

Could be interesting to make a project around food, by searching for dishes. Here are returned images for the search term “salad”.

Images with no title are intriguing. Many come from the Farm Security Administration’s collection of photos from the 30s.

There are worker’s rights songs from Bakersfield, California in the 40s.

Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database

Library Offers Largest Release of Digital Catalog Records in History. 25 Million Free Records of Bibliographic Metadata.

Not at LOC, but cool: 52,000 index cards of jokes from the Phyllis Diller Gag File.

Not at LOC, but cool: 8,000 documents from Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” columns

Brighton Beach photos.