This post was originally published on February 12, 2012.
I love posters. I imagine my project colleagues and many of you feel the same. But I don’t actually know a ton about the history of poster design as an art form. That’s why I was so pleased to find Posters for the People, a very cool website/database that holds, reproduces, and discusses the history of the posters that were created as part of the Federal Art Project during the Great Depression.
From the Posters for the People website:
Welcome to the most comprehensive record of posters created under the New Deal’s Federal Art Project! More than doubling the number of posters thought to exist, this online resource brings many posters to light that have not been seen by the public in more than 70 years. Current Count: 1598.
Posters for the People was created by Ennis Carter and Alex Peltz, both of Design for Social Impact. Libraries like the Boston Public Library, George Mason University Libraries, the Art Institute of Chicago, and many other cultural institutions provide assistance and data for the project, which calls for a lot of digitizing and organizing of visual materials.
Things to check out on the website:
- History of Works Progress Administration’s poster program. Details about the program, but even better, short histories of the artists who actually designed the posters seen in the collection.
- The posters themselves. Click on “View all Posters” at the top to see them all. They are organized alphabetically by title/subject (“A Moral Entertainment”, “A Murder Has Been Arranged”, etc.). You can search by keyword by there does not seem to be a limit function or a way to search a specific category of poster.
- My Gallery. This feature allows you to save specific posters and their records after creating an account and logging in to the site.
- Reproductions of some posters are available – can’t you imagine this one hanging in your library/office/living room? Neat.
There is also a gorgeous book, Posters for the People : art of the WPA (Quirk Books, 2008).
While we’re on the subject of WPA posters, I would be remiss not to mention the wonderful digital collection available through the Library of Congress. My recommendation is to start on the Collection’s About page, which provides an excellent history of the Federal Arts Project and the WPA posters in particular.
Specially chosen highlights from the collection are divided by subject:
- Health & Safety
- Cultural Programs
- Travel & Tourism
- Educational Programs
- Community Activities
- Federal Project Number One
- World War II
There is also a handy Subject Index to the collection. I’ve included a short how-to video since the Subject Index is rather tricky to figure out.
New on Pinterest:
You will probably not be surprised to hear that this week’s Pinterest board is all about posters. Follow Posters: Examples & Resources to see some beautiful visuals and find books and online resources that can tell you all about the history of poster art and design. As always, we want to hear from you – send us a note to let us know of any great books or websites about posters – we can’t wait to add your suggestions to our board!
We’d also love to hear your reactions to these wonderful collections of WPA posters. What’s your favorite? Have any of these inspired you in the past, or in the present? Chat us up here in the comments section, or on Twitter (@IArtLibraries) or Facebook. Enjoy! – LauraPin It