The University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Library has added two prominent compilations to its Digital Collections that illuminate mid-century life.
The public may now browse images online from the Standard Oil (New Jersey) Photography Collection, considered one of the most significant documentary photography projects ever undertaken.
The collection is a result of a public relations initiative started by the company to rehabilitate its flagging reputation. What emerges is a photo-documentary – a complete socio-geographical portrait – of everyday life from 1943-1956. It was led by Roy Stryker, who famously directed the Farm Security Administration’s documentary program during the Great Depression. He enlisted the help of other top photographers such as Charlotte Brooks, Esther Bubley, John Collier, Jr., Harold Corsini, Arnold Eagle, Russell Lee, Sol Libsohn, Gordon Parks, Edwin and Louise Rosskam, Charles Rotkin, John Vachon and Todd Webb.
The University has held the physical collection – which includes some 80,000 black and white negatives, 2,000 color transparencies and 70,000 gelatin silver prints – for several decades but has only recently begun to post them online.
“The physical collection has been used by scholars from all over the world,” said Carrie Daniels, archives and special collections director. “It’s one of our most important collections.”
Issues of the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) railway employees’ magazine also have been placed online. The magazine, which ran from 1925 to 1974, details changes and challenges in the railroad industry, development, industry and events in the places served by the railway, as well as activities of railway personnel, many of whom lived in and around Louisville.
“For many of us in Louisville, the magazine is a window into the city’s past,” Daniels said. “Lots of local people have ancestors or other relatives who worked for L&N, and some folks still remember the L&N trains pulling through town, so it has a strong local significance.”