Celebrate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary Online
Press Release · Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Washington, DC

The National Archives celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a special online exhibit. See Robert Rauschenberg’s iconic Earth Day poster, which features an image of a bald eagle surrounded by a photo montage of endangered animals, deforestation and pollution, and discover other records from our holdings that document the environmental movement.

More than 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Recognized by many as the birth of the U.S. environmental movement, the nationwide demonstration spurred a dramatic rise in public concern about environmental issues. It also secured political action that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Richard Nixon later that year and the passage of important environmental protection legislation including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts throughout the 1970s. In the 50 years since its creation, Earth Day has grown into an event observed by a billion people in nearly 200 countries each year. For many, the global challenge to preserve and protect the environment continues with increasing urgency. 

Given the COVID-19, pandemic, the National Archives is following the Earth Day Network’s suggestion to “go digital,” with related highlights from our holdings, which include the records of the DOCUMERICA project

DOCUMERICA was a Federal photography project created by the EPA and born out of the decade’s environmental awakening, which not only produced striking photographs of many of that era’s environmental problems and achievements but also captured the era’s trends, fashions, and cultural shifts. Drawing its inspiration from the Depression-era Farm Security Administration photography project, the EPA hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s. From smokestacks to bell bottoms and leisure suits, these images are a fascinating time capsule of 1970s America. The National Archives has digitized and made freely available online more than 15,000 DOCUMERICA images.

Related online resources:

Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project - Google Arts and Culture exhibit

National Archives DOCUMERICA collection on Flickr

DOCUMERICA: Snapshots of Crisis and Cure in the 1970s - Prologue magazine story Honoring Earth Day with a Look at Photographs from Project

DOCUMERICA - Narrations blog  


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This page was last reviewed on April 30, 2020.
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