The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr.

Topic: History Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibit

by Jim Spadaccini

Published on May 08, 2007, Modified on July 18, 2007

  • Description and goals

    The American Image: The Photographs of John Collier Jr. was developed with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and College of Education’s Technology & Education Center (TEC) at the University of New Mexico collaborated with Ideum to develop this online only exhibit.

    Most of the photographs that appear on this site were taken for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) during the war years of the 1940s. The FSA/OWI hired John Collier Jr. to document day-to-day life in America with a focus on issues of civil defense and public morale. The images that appear in the collection were taken from across the country, from New Mexico to Maine, and provide a snapshot of ordinary life in those extraordinary times.

    This online exhibit makes extensive use of the Flickr photo sharing service and community site. “The Collection” pulls photographs directly from the Flickr site, as does the “The Shooting Script” which compares Collier images with those of other Flickr members. As part of the project, the Maxwell Museum (with the permission of the Collier family) established John Collier Jr. as a member of Flickr. (He died in 1992.) Collier’s “presence” on Flickr has allowed members of the community, who might not otherwise find the Website, to see his wonderful photographs.

    Macromedia Flash was used to pull the photographs from Flickr into the site. The “Propaganda Filmmaker,” also developed in Flash, allows visitors to edit their own short movies. Archival footage, graphics, and Collier photographs can be used to create and publish propaganda videos to the Web. Visitor’s can view short videos created by others and rate them.

    All of the “social” aspects of the online exhibit are easily moderated. Filters remove most offensive propaganda film titles (only a few have been attempted), and the comments appear on the Flickr site itself. In this way, the online exhibit allows for input and creativity but the museum can moderate this—even with limited resources.

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