After discovering that around 1,000 of the 41,000 Farm Security Administration prints housed in the NYPL archives are not in the Library of Congress collection, the New York Public Library has cataloged and scanned the, until recently, largely forgotten photographs.
Roy Stryker, founder of the Farm Security Administration’s photography project, was determined to compile a visual encyclopedia of the United States in the 1930s and ’40s and preserve it for future generations.
So, while photographers like Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Russell Lee crisscrossed the country, Mr. Stryker was sending boxes of prints to Ramona Javitz, the director of the New York Public Library Picture Collection, to make sure there was a repository other than the National Archives.
“I think he had to hedge his bets,” said Beverly Brannan, a curator at the Library of Congress and the author or editor of several books on the Farm Security Administration. “It makes sense that he would send them to Ramona Javitz, so there would at least be a body of them accessible in New York City until he got assurance that they would be kept together in Washington, D.C. He was nervous, he was anxious, and I think that’s how there got to be two collections.”
Learn more about the collection on the New York Times’ Lens Blog.