Tag Archives: library of congress

Fun and inspiring: The Library of Congress online archives

My trip to the Library of Congress building later led me online to explore their equally amazing catalog of images. They have thousands of high-resolution images, from baseball cards to Japanese prints to Spanish civil war posters. And that’s just the prints and photographs section.

I preferred the collection of WPA posters. They combine beautiful design with period topics that can seem wacky today. Ride the El! Get tested for syphilis! Beat the Germans! Children’s piano competition! Over 900 governmental exhortations paint a vivid picture of 1930s life. I was amazed by the number of posters for illness: tuberculosis, syphilis (31 posters alone!), diphtheria, scarlet fever.

The posters are also great sources of design inspiration. Most have playful typography and engaging graphics. Many of them are available as high-resolution TIFFs, so you can print them out and have instant decor. My bathroom now has posters about syphilis and pneumonia. I’m sure my guests will feel safer.

And without further ado, some favorites:

As old as creation, Syphilis is now curable.

pneumonia strikes like a man eating shark led by its pilot fish the common cold.

The Art Institute of Chicago international exhibition of water colors

An orderly line is a safe line!

Stop and get your free fag bag– careless matches aid the Axis.

14th Illinois Cattle feeders meeting.

The beautiful Library of Congress

The Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress is just across the street from the Capitol building in Washington DC. It may be the most beautiful building in the world. Completed in 1898, it is covered in sculptures and murals portraying gilded age ideals; one section of painting shows personifications of the various scientific disciplines from astronomy to biology.

If you are a fan of art nouveau works, as I am, the Thomas Jefferson building is almost overwhelming, draped from head-to-toe in exciting color and design. Below are just a few of the pictures I took. Additionally, the library houses several excellent rotating exhibits. DC has a lot of great institutions to visit, and Library of Congress should definitely be one you seek out.

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Ceiling of the Great Hall

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Skylights of the Great Hall

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Looking across the Great Hall

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Mosaic, Minerva of Peace, by Elihu Vedder

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