WPA Photograph Collection
South Caroliniana Library
A collection of photographs documenting homes, schools, colleges, churches, streets, landscapes, murals, artwork, and other aspects of South Carolina life, these images were collected by photographers hired as part of Federal Writers’ Project. The Federal Writer’s Project was created in 1935 as part of the United States Work Progress Administration to provide employment for various white-collar workers such as historians, teachers, and writers. Read more about the collection.
This collection of photographs documents cities, towns, farms, lifestyles, landscapes, and other aspects of South Carolina life. Under the direction of Mabel Montgomery and Louise Jones DuBose, these photographs were produced and collected by the South Carolina Writer’s Project (SCWP) from 1936 to 1940. SCWP was part of the Writers’ Program of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), created in 1935 to create, among other things, a comprehensive guide to the states, cities, and regions of the United States. South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State was published in 1941 and included many of the photographs in this collection. SCWP also published several other books on South Carolina, which used some of the images.
WPA photographers such as Walter Connolly, Carlisle Roberts, and W. Lincoln Highton produced the bulk of the photographs, while South Carolinians Carl T. Julien, Walter Sargeant, and Alfred T. Willis also provided images. Photographers such as Walker Evans, Marion Post, and Dorothea Lange with the Farm Security Administration visited South Carolina during this time and some of their photographs are included as well. Images from other federal and state departments, chambers of commerce, and newspapers fill in the gaps.
The collection’s original arrangement of People, Places, and Things has been maintained. People are alphabetical by surname; Places are alphabetical by county; and Things are alphabetical by subject. It is important to remember that county lines and names have changed over time; true to archival practice, no attempt has been made to alter the original order of the photographs to reflect those changes or filing decisions of the SCWP staff.
This digital project was begun by Josh Deese (HRTM 2012) and Ann Merryman (MLIS 2013) and will continue to grow with the help of USC interns. Deese and Merryman scanned the photographs on an Epson 10000 XL flatbed scanner and the Zeutschel OS 14000 A0 overhead scanner. They created metadata following Dublin Core Metadata Best Practices. This work could not have been done without the help of Beth Bilderback, Visual Materials Archivist of South Caroliniana Library, and the Systems Department at Thomas Cooper Library, administrators for the CONTENTdm database.