The Library's rich visual collections feature a wide variety of photographs, art prints, and other materials related to Halloween and Day of the Dead. Use the Library's search to view thousands of prints and photographs celebrating these traditions. Such material is housed in several Library divisions, including the Prints and Photographs Division and the American Folklife Center.
This photo by Sue Samuelson shows a scary clown at a party in Flora Lea Farms, New Jersey, in 1983. It comes from the American Folklife Center's Pinelands Folklife Project collection (AFC 1991/023), a field project undertaken in the 1980s. The collection contains approximately 80,000 photos, hundreds of which document Halloween traditions.
The Prints and Photographs Division includes vintage and contemporary photos of Halloween costumes, decorations, and customs. Another highlight is a remarkable series of posters for California Día de los Muertos celebrations from the Mission Gráfica/La Raza Graphics collection.
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The calavera, or skull, is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican celebration of the dead that has both Indigenous and Spanish Catholic roots. The Prints and Photographs Division holds a treasure-trove of prints by eminent Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913). Posada helped popularize the calavera as a satirical graphic motif featuring skeletal figures often printed together with a ballad or corrido. His work, which has come to be closely identified with the Day of the Dead, continues to be celebrated around the holiday, particularly in Aguascalientes, his hometown. Posada produced much of his work for the publishing firm of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, creating illustrations on countless themes including religion, revolutionary politics, popular entertainment, and of course death. Posada’s calaveras were often printed on single sheets as broadsides and created for distribution on November 2nd. For some admirers, they constitute his most significant work. Find more information on calaveras at the links below!
The photo at the top of the page is by Sue Samuelson, and shows a scary clown at a party in Flora Lea Farms, New Jersey, in 1983. It comes from the American Folklife Center's Pinelands Folklife Project collection (AFC 1991/023), a field project undertaken in the 1980s. The collection contains approximately 80,000 photos, hundreds of which document Halloween traditions. The photos are online at the link below.The photo immediately above is by Douglas DeNatale, and shows a Children's Halloween parade in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1987. It comes from the American Folklife Center's Lowell Folklife Project collection.
Several other collections housed in the Library's American Folklife Center feature photos of Halloween traditions and celebrations. See some of them below.
Photographs taken by a diverse cross-section of Americans that document local Halloween traditions.
The Edward Gorey Collection, comprising 802 items (467 books, 89 periodicals, 92 posters and theater-related materials, 147 items of ephemera, 7 works of art, and 25 reference documents) collected by Gorey expert Glen Emil, is now housed in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
Can you take a photograph of a ghost? Claims of capturing a spirit with the camera lens were made as early as the 1850s, when photography was relatively new to the world. Learn more about the techniques employed by photographers to capture ghostly images, and view images from the Library's Prints and Photographs Division.
The Library's Prints and Photographs Division recently made the Mission Grafica/La Raza Graphics Collection available online. According to the curator, Katherine Blood:
Mission Grafica began in 1982 in the Mission Cultural Center of San Francisco, California, which had made artwork since the 1970s. The collection also includes work from La Raza silkscreen center, later La Raza Graphics; Galeria de la Raza; Alliance Graphics; and others. Among the over 1,200 art prints and posters are works by artists of multiple heritages, including many Latino and Chicano Movement creators. Their subject matter often reflects personal, community, and also national and global concerns, stressing social, political, and cultural relevance often in intersectional ways. At the local level are posters for exhibits, poetry, events, festivals, dances, and other community-based happenings.
Among the local happenings commemorated in fine art posters in this collection are Día de los Muertos celebrations. Artists contributing muertos-themed art include Jos Sances, Juan Fuentes, Calixto Roblez, Jesus Barraza, Alexandra Blum, and others.
It's useful to note that some of the artworks use the term "Día de los Muertos" and others "Day of the Dead." Some posters use rarer names for the festival, including "La Feria de los Muertos." Still others commemorate exhibits with various titles such as "Labyrinth of the Dead." Search "Photos, Prints, and Drawings" for the words "muertos" and "dead" to see as many relevant items as possible!