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Man walking home with relief provisions near Oil City, Oklahoma, photograph by Dorothea Lange (June 1937) (via Photogrammar/Libray of Congress)

The Library of Congress has an incredible digitized archive of Depression-era photographs, taken between 1935 and 1945 on behalf of the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. But navigating this rich compendium of images depicting a broad range of economic and social life during the Great Depression wasn’t easy if you were trying to pin down a particular region or subject. Photogrammar, a new online platform launched by Yale University, maps and organizes the over 170,000 Library of Congress photographs from this period with a smart, user-friendly design.

County map view of Photogrammar (screenshot by the author)

Photographer map view of Photogrammar (screenshot by the author)

“With the existing data set from the Library of Congress, there was no way to easily search for photos or to take a bird’s eye view. Essentially, the Photogrammar team is giving the public a way to rethink the data from amazing new angles,” Yale librarian David Gar told the Yale Daily News. The student paper notes that the project was largely at the instigation of American studies graduate student Lauren Tilton, working with statistics graduate student Taylor Arnold under the direction of Laura Wexler, who founded and directs Yale’s Photographic Memory Workshop. Through funding from the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment for the Humanities, their ambitious initiative grew into an absorbing platform for discovering a difficult decade of American history.

While you can search by photographer name, categories, and dates, the map views are the most interesting. One divides 90,000 photographs up by county, another by photographer, so you can get a fuller picture of the economy and society of a place at a time. You can also appreciate just how expansive a lens some of the best photographers of that time were giving to the country. I couldn’t resist exploring the photographs plotted in my home state of Oklahoma, with the Dust Bowl, oil fields, agriculture camps, and migrants heading west, documented by photographers like Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and Russell Lee. Below are just a few of the thousands of images on Photogrammar.

Farmer’s son in the dust of Cimarron County, Oklahoma, photograph by Arthur Rothstein (April 1936) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Farm machinery buried in drifting soil, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, photograph by Arthur Rothstein (April 1936) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

American Indian farm wife, McIntosh County, Oklahoma, photograph by Russell Lee (June 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Child in a migrant car heading west near Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, photograph by Russell Lee (June 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Mules in Vian, Oklahoma, photograph by Russell Lee (June 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Oil worker who became part of a ditch-digging gang, Seminole, Oklahoma, photograph by Russell Lee (August 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Roughneck in a Seminole, Oklahoma, oil field, photograph by Russell Lee (August 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Truck driver in a Seminole, Oklahoma, oil field, photograph by Russell Lee (August 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Roughnecks tighening a pipe on an oil well, Oklahoma City, photograph by Russell Lee (August 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Agricultural day laborer in his corn field near his tent home in a community camp, Oklahoma City, photograph by Russell Lee (July 1939) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Bed on the porch, Newport, Oklahoma, photograph by Dorothea Lange (June 1937) (via Photogrammar/Library of Congress)

Access all 170,000 Great Depression photographs on Photogrammar.

Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...