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American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

Documentary Surveys

Photograph of Marion Post Wolcott with Zeiss Ikoflex III and Speed Graphic in hand in Montgomery County, Maryland
Arthur Rothstein, photographer. Marion Post Wolcott with Zeiss Ikoflex III and Speed Graphic in hand in Montgomery County, Maryland. 1940. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Survey materials reflect a desire to provide a systematic record of a time or a phenomenon. Often these ambitious efforts were the product of an organization or group of people working collaboratively.

Even when the images were not made expressly for publication purposes, as the products of graphic and photojournalism were, they often reflect a desire both to document and to persuade. The division's documentary survey collections number among its most popular and widely known collections.

The following "Documentary Survey" collections are highlighted in these sections of the guide:

  • Civil War Photographs
    This collection (more than 7,000 photographs, primarily negatives, 1861-65) does not provide much coverage of women's involvement in this national conflict.
  • Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection
    Images in this collection include about 175,000 black-and-white film negatives, 107,000 black-and-white photographic prints, and 1,610 color transparencies, 1935-45.
  • Regional Architectural Surveys
    Several New Deal-era projects set out to document American architecture, in the process recording many of the spaces in which women lived, worshiped, and worked: Pictorial Archives of Early American Architecture (PAEAA) and Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South (about 7,000 photographs, 1933-40).
  • Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey (HABS/HAER/HALS)
    This collection contains photographs, measured drawings, and/or textual information for more than 35,000 structures and sites, ca. 1933-present.
  • Edward Curtis Collection
    This collection (2,400 photographic prints, 1899-1929) consists primarily of photographic prints that Curtis deposited for copyright in the course of preparing his twenty-volume work The North American Indian, including many views not published in the book. 
  • Carol M. Highsmith Archive
    Highsmith's growing archive now numbers more than 60,000 images, including locations in nearly every state in the union, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; she has also documented local festivals, foodways, business enterprises, and community activities.