The Record - September 1998

Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives

New Exhibit to Open in March

The enormous and varied photography holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration vividly capture the sweeping changes of the 20th century. Remarkably broad in scope and candid, the photographs depict everyday life as well as high political drama, society's failings as well as its triumphs, war's ugliness as well as its bravery. Just as importantly, the public records in the National Archives offer a unique, open, and accessible view of American history and much of world history as well. Its millions of photographs are a national treasure deserving to be seen and appreciated by the American people.

To mark the close of the 20th century, the National Archives is creating a new exhibition entitled "Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives." This exhibit will illustrate the changes in American society over the last 100 years, as well as explore the role of government photography in twentieth-century America. "Picturing the Century" will open in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building, Washington, DC in March 1999 and run through July 4, 2001. It will be the first major photography exhibition at the Archives in twenty years and will display 190 photographs, many of them vintage original prints. In addition to the photographs, original documents will discuss how the Federal government and others used images to promote social reform, wage world war, support American foreign policy, and document environmental concerns. The exhibit will also include an audiovisual component—interviews with some of the photographers featured in the show. A catalog reproducing most of the images will be published in association with the University of Washington Press, and a traveling version of the exhibit has been proposed to travel in mid-2000.

"Farmer reading his farm paper." (1998 print from the original negative, NARA, Records of the Extension Service (33-SC-15754) )

Tired member of VF-17 at Bougainville

"Tired member of VF-17 pauses under the squadron scoreboard at Bougainville." (Photo by Lt. Comdr. Charles Fenno Jacobs, February 1944. 1998 print from the original negative, National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947 (80-G-475093))

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, famed photographer Edward Steichen recruited Charles Fenno Jacobs (1904-1975) to join his Naval Aviation Photographic Unit. Jacobs, like the other photographers in the unit, followed Steichen's advice to concentrate on the human side of modern war. This photograph will be among 190 exhibited in "Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives" to open in March 1999.