National Archives at St. Louis Opens New Exhibit
Press Release · Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Through America’s Lens: Focusing on the Greatest Generation 1920-1945

Contact Information

St. Louis, Missouri…The National Archives and Records Administration will open a new exhibition featuring some of America’s most memorable photographic images in the new exhibit, Through America’s Lens: Focusing on the Greatest Generation 1920-1945. This exhibit will feature a mixture of historic photographs and textual documents from the Federal personnel files of some of America’s most prolific photographers and artists. The exhibition opens on Monday, March 11, 2013 and runs through Friday, September 27, 2013. The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Friday (except Federal holidays) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reservations are not required.

The Through America’s Lens: Focusing on the Greatest Generation (1920-1945) exhibition will contain an extensive selection of historic images taken by photographers who served in the United States military and were employed by the Federal government. “You can see the stress of everyday life and basic survivability in the faces of those that went through this dark chapter in our nation's history. But, you can also see the best and brightest working to make things better to overcome economic ruin and true evil to build a better, stronger and safer country and world,” said National Archives at St. Louis Access Coordinator, Bryan K. McGraw.

Visitors will get a chance to witness the devastation of poverty captured through the lens of Dorothea Lange, whose images of American poverty continue to be noted by today’s scholars. In addition, this exhibition showcases the work of such twentieth-century American photographers as George Ackerman, Lewis Hine, and Arthur Rothstein who were hired by the Federal government to capture the social achievements of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The exhibition also features the work of Native American artist and muralist Gerald Nailor.

Iconic and historic scenes from World War II will be displayed in the work of photographers Barrett Gallagher, Charles F. Jacobs, Robert Sargent, and Edward Steichen. The work of Academy Award-winning cinematographer John Ford will also be featured in the exhibition. These artists captured moments dealing with the horrors of battle as well as the ultimate victory at World War II’s end.

Their iconic photographs will be mixed with documents from their individual civilian and military personnel files. These files contain letters of recommendation, performance appraisals, commendations and other items that illustrate the work and life of the artist as a civilian or military photographer.

Exhibit-Related Historical Lectures

In conjunction with the exhibit, the National Archives at St Louis will sponsoran exhibit lecture series starting on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. The first lecture will feature St. Louis University’s historian and scholar Dr. Flannery Burke. She will examine the life and career of Dorothea Lange. An iconic image in U.S. history, Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" tells us much about the 1930s, the Great Depression, and American attitudes about poverty. This lecture will place the image in its historical context by introducing listeners to Lange's background as a portrait photographer, the Farm Security Administration's photography program, and the largely untold story of land reform efforts in the 1930s.

Prior to Dr. Burke’s lecture, National Archives at St. Louis archivists will discuss Federal documents now available online through such digital partnerships as and other online research databases.

On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Dan Younger, an art and photography professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will examine how historical photographs impact time and memory during the Great Depression and function as historical markers.

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 6:30 p.m., a panel of local historians will discuss "Poverty In America" as this subject relates to the Greatest Generation and images featured in the larger exhibition. The panel will consist of Dr. Margaret Garb, Washington University, who will discuss the Great Depression; Dr. Adell Patton, University of Missouri at St. Louis, will discuss Post-Depression poverty and Dr. John McManus, Missouri University of Science and Technology, will discuss the impact of famous war-time military images taken by veteran photographers during World War II.

For each lecture, we ask that you RSVP as a courtesy (not required) by e-mail at (Use the word “lecture” in the subject line) or call 314-801-0847.


The National Archives at St. Louis is located at 1 Archives Drive off of Dunn Road (1829 Dunn Road), St. Louis, MO., 63138, next to Hazelwood East Middle School. All visitors to this facility must go through security screening entering and exiting the facility. Visitors are required to show current photo identification. Items such as weapons, knives, and pepper spray will not be allowed in the facility. Free parking is available in the visitor parking lot.

# # #

For press information contact Wanda Williams ( at (314) 801-9313 or Bryan McGraw at (314) 801-9132.


This page was last reviewed on February 14, 2019.
Contact us with questions or comments.