Images of Progress: Postcards from the 1933 World’s Fair

Two weeks ago I visited the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago to take some digital images for this class. I had written about Chicago’s second World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress” held in 1933-1934 in a previous class, and was curious to see what kinds of material related to the fair were held at the library.

Souvenir Book

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “Century of Progress” collection

I chose to focus on postcards from the Century of Progress, specifically on ones that seem to not be official fair-sanctioned souvenirs. These postcards all riff on the fair’s theme of “progress” in some way.

CofP 4

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “Century of Progress” Collection

CofP 3

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “A Century of Progress” Collection

CofP 5

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “A Century of Progress Collection” 

CofP 2

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “A Century of Progress Collection”

CofP 1

Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, “A Century of Progress Collection” 

 

I ran into a few issues when taking these pictures that even a liberal use of Photoshop may not be able to fix.

I used my phone camera to capture the images, and I think it performed fairly well. However, the postcards were all encased in a protective sleeve that reflected light in an unfortunate way, and I was not sure how to mitigate this problem. I tried angling the photos in a certain way to minimize the reflections, but this meant the photos were not straight and some of them are somewhat out of focus.

I think even a liberal use of Photoshop might not be able to make these photos of high enough quality to be featured in a digital humanities project. However, my initial visit had the effect of familiarizing me with the collections, and on a return visit I will be better prepared to deal with these problems.

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2 thoughts on “Images of Progress: Postcards from the 1933 World’s Fair

  1. Maggie McClain says:

    Gotta love the protective coverings archives use:) I love these postcards. I think they’d be an amazing resource in a digital format, but do you think you’ll run into issues with Ryerson and Burnham?

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    • Julia Lacher says:

      Thanks Maggie! Yes, that’s something my group has thought a lot about when trying to decide what collections to use for our project. We called the library and after explaining how we would use the images, they agreed to let us use them as long as our project remains private with restricted access.

      Like

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