Dating photos using Library of Congress resources is today’s post.
The Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division has a great list of resources for visual literacy, a term that embraces image history, photographic processes, content, and meaning. If you have ever used a magnifying glass on a photograph to try to read a date on a wall calendar or a license plate, then you’re using visual literacy.
Now let’s do an exercise from LC’s A Closer Look: Dating a Photo article. Look at the photograph at the top of this post. From the caption, we know the image is of the Library of Congress Card Division, but when was it taken?
I’m guessing this is early 2oth century. The two Red Cross posters are the biggest clues. From the hairstyles and clothing and typewriters, I could Google “World War I Red Cross posters” but the results would be overwhelming. Instead I use the search engine for the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division at www.loc.gov/pictures.
The same search term reveals the two posters almost immediately. The first one is called Spirit of America released in 1918 and second is named Third Red Cross Roll Call, which was distributed in 1919, so the photograph is from about 1919. I could also continue to use clues like the models of the typewriters and clothing styles to get a more exact date if needed.
Want to continue to improve your visual literacy?
Download a Visual Literacy Exercise from LC to use on one of your own family photographs.
Visit LC’s Sources for Identifying and Deciphering Symbols.
Go to LC’s Picture Research and Visual Literacy page.
Try LC’s tutorials and resources if you need more help Dating Photos Using Library of Congress Resources.
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