Months ago staff and volunteers in the Preservation and Access Department at the Ohio Historical Society began a project to scan every photograph in the Ohio Guide Collection. This collection was created by the Ohio Federal Writer’s Project, a New Deal era program that employed writer’s during the Great Depression. Beginning in 1935 their job was to write and publish a guide book about the history and culture of Ohio, points of interest and places to visit in the state. During the course of the project they took and collected thousands of photographs. We chose to scan the collection because 2008 was the 75th Anniversary of the New Deal. Also, we have always thought the collection contained great photographs.
Little did we know what was in store for us as we began working our way through the collection box by box, folder by folder, and print by print. We have discovered copies of photographs by the famous Farm Security Administration photographer Ben Shahn. The Farm Security Administration, another New Deal era program created to assist farmers, sent out photographers to document the affect of the Great Depression on ordinary people across the United States. Some of Farm Security Administration photographs are among the most iconic photographs of twentieth century America, so we were very excited to see examples in our collection. Here are four photographs by Shahn that we have found so far.
To see more photographs from the Ohio Guide Collection, visit our digital library, Ohio Memory. Just select “Ohio Guide Collection” from the pull down menu to search or browse these photographs. If you are interested in seeing more photographs taken by Ben Shahn and other Farm Security Administration photographers in Ohio, they have been made available online through the Library of Congress, American Memory Project.