Posters and Illustrated Materials

A printed illustration, usually containing textual and/or graphic elements, on a large sheet, designed to be affixed to a wall or other vertical surface. Posters are often mass-produced and publicly displayed to advertise or promote something, to attract attention to events, activities, causes, goods, or services, to convey information, or to communicate a message. Posters may also be purely decorative. Posters can be visually striking and are usually designed to make an immediate impression from a distance. Posters serve many purposes, including political, educational, commercial, propaganda, artistic, and advertising purposes.

(Adapted from Society for American Archivists definition for posters)

Illustrated or graphic materials comprise a broad class of records that are primarily images or visual representations of subjects, objects or concepts, as distinguished from textual records. Illustrated or graphic records may include illustrations, architectural, engineering, or artistic works, and may be drawings, designs, photographs, paintings, sketches, or other media. Illustrated materials are often created to make a subject or concept easier to understand, or to provide an artistic rendering of an object or idea, etc.

(Adapted from Society for American Archivists definition for graphic records)

NARA’s still picture holdings include over 17,000 posters, primarily produced during the two World Wars, that can be found in the records of military organizations and civilian agencies supporting the war effort, as well as a sizeable number of posters publicizing government peacetime and nonmilitary programs and subjects.

Although posters and illustrated materials are managed by the Still Photographs division, the approach to reformatting these records follows specifications for digitizing textual materials.

The accurate reproduction of vivid color and fine text or line detail, if applicable, can be important when scanning posters and other illustrated materials.

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