The Works Progress Administration, renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration or "WPA," was the largest and most ambitious of the American New Deal agencies. It employed millions of unskilled workers, mostly men, in all kinds of public works projects, building bridges, schools, dams, and public venues. It was active between the years 1935 and 1943, when WWII became a more effective job creator.
"The stated goal of public building programs was to end the depression or, at least, alleviate its worst effects. Millions of people needed subsistence incomes. Work relief was preferred over public assistance (the dole) because it maintained self-respect, reinforced the work ethic, and kept skills sharp." (Leighninger, Robert D. "Cultural Infrastructure: The Legacy of New Deal Public Space." Journal of Architectural Education 49, no. 4, 1996)
The Western History Department was a beneficiary of WPA effort, in the beginnings of the monumental "General Index" project which has now graduated to the digital world, and is discussed here. The Department's photograph collection, growing since 1935, in its wide diversity of images, has many that in some way are related to the WPA, and have it noted on the back of the photo. The photos were usually categorized by more prominent criteria, like subject matter, and the WPA connection was lost. Because of the wide variety of ways the notations read, the database yielded different search results for "WPA," W.P.A.," "Works Progress Administration," "Writer's Project of the WPA," etc., making it impossible to neatly pull them together in one search.
Our ContentDM software, with its robust flexibility, makes an easy solution possible. Using the "Is Part Of" field, an artificial "collection name" was created, simply "WPA Photos." Now, that link: WPA Photos, will produce search results showing all of the photos, from the various collections, that in some way are related to the WPA. This new software has made this kind of fine-tuning possible, and our Digital Collections become more useful and fascinating every day.
Visit the gallery below, to see a selection of the WPA photos, or use the link above to see them all.
"Wow Photo Wednesday" celebrates photographs in the Denver Public Library's Digital Collections that have "The Wow Factor" and that highlight the myriad delightful nuggets in our database.