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Eric Bartheld
IU Libraries

Last modified: Monday, September 28, 2009

Documenting the Great Depression

Sept. 28, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As part of a nationwide campaign to recognize the importance of archives to teaching and research, in October the IU Libraries will present a month-long series of events documenting the Great Depression.

The celebration features exhibitions, film showings, a sing-along of popular music from the 1930s, and discussions. Keynote speaker and author Mildred Kalish will talk about her book Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, acclaimed by The New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2007. The event will be held at the Monroe County Public Library auditorium at 5 p.m. on Oct. 7.

The final event coincides with the anniversary of the great stock market crash of 1929. On Oct. 29, performers will sing selections from the sheet music collections at IU's Lilly Library, including "We're in the Money" and "Hallelujah I'm a Bum."

"Our troubled economy clearly provides context for the theme this year," says Indiana University archivist and organizer Phil Bantin. "Archives and special collections, in their many forms, help us better understand our shared history."

Girl with Balloon

Photo from Frank M. Hohenberger Collection, Lilly Library

Girl with balloon, from the Frank M. Hohenberger Collection, Lilly Library

This is the fourth year IU and community organizations have participated in the nationwide observance organized by the Society of American Archivists. In 2008, the Society of American Archivists recognized IU's campaign as the best in the country.

Related exhibitions are sponsored by the Monroe County History Center, IU Art Museum, IU Press, Fine Arts Library, Lilly Library and Herman B Wells Library.

For additional information:

All events are free and open to the public. They include:

Dealing with Hard Times: Popular Music During the Depression -- Oct. 5 (Monday), 7-8:30 p.m., panel discussion, Monroe County Public Library Auditorium. "While some Depression-era songs and singers offered entertainment and escape, others gave voice to the all-too-harsh realities of the times. Panelists will explore folk and country music of the South and West, hard-knock blues of the '30s, and escapist Broadway show tunes by composers such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter. Keith Cochran, associate director of the Cook Music Library, will moderate the panel, which includes panelists Glenn Gass, Constance Glen and Andrew Hollinden from the IU Jacobs School of Music.

Keynote speaker and reception -- Oct. 7 (Wednesday), 5 p.m., Mildred Kalish, author, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, Monroe County Public Library Auditorium. Named by the New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2007, Little Heathens was written by first- time author 85-year-old Mildred Kalish, a retired college professor of literature, who remembers her childhood with vivid detail. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, wrote of Kalish in the New York Times that "her terrifically soaring love for those childhood memories saturates this book with pure charm." A book signing will immediately follow the talk.

The Great Depression in Black and White -- This film series begins on Oct. 6 (Tuesday), 7 p.m., Wells Library, E174, and continues weekly thereafter. Sponsored by the Herman B Wells Library and the Black Film Center/Archive, the series features four films that deal with racial and economic inequality and injustice, and show the resilience of people in tough times. The Black Film Center/Archive was established in 1981 as a repository of films and related materials by and about African Americans.

  • The Green Pastures, Oct. 6
  • American Madness, Oct. 14
  • I Remember Harlem: The Depression Years, Oct. 21
  • Our Daily Bread, Oct. 28

Modern Art and Politics: Stuart Davis and the Federal Art Project -- Noon talk sponsored by the IU Art Museum, Oct. 7 (Wednesday), 12:15-1 p.m. in the Gallery of the Art of the Western World, Doris Steinmetz Kellett Gallery of Twentieth-century Art, first floor. Sponsored by the IU Art Museum. Jenny McComas, the IU Art Museum's Class of 1958 Curator of Western Art after 1800, will discuss the museum's mural Swing Landscape in conjunction with Stuart Davis's work for the Mural Division of the Federal Art Project during the Depression.

Conservation, Communities and Cameras -- This program features a noon talk Oct. 12 at the Herman B Wells Library E174, by librarian Bob Goehlert, who will offer context for a companion film series titled Farm Security Administration Documentaries. The film series begins Oct. 13, at noon, and continues weekly thereafter, also in Herman B Wells Library E174. The first two films in this series, one about the Dust Bowl and the other about the importance of the Mississippi, are Depression-era and were selected to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Documenting the Face of America, produced in 2008, shows how FSA photographers chronicled the New Deal and Great Depression.

  • The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936; 31 min.), Oct. 13
  • The River (1938; 25 min.), Oct. 20
  • Documenting the Face of America (2008; 60 min.), Oct. 27

Open House -- Oct. 20, 2 p.m-5 p.m., University Archives, Herman B Wells Library E460. Tour the University Archives and view exhibits and films of old IU football and basketball games in the Archives conference room.

WPA Federal Radio Project Recordings and the Sound Directions Project -- This presentation at noon on Oct. 27 in Morrison Hall 006 features Alan Burdette, director of the IU Archives of Traditional Music, who will play recordings from the WPA Federal Radio Project and discuss efforts to document disappearing aspects of American culture. Those efforts are mirrored today in the IU Sound Directions Project to save these now rapidly deteriorating recordings.

Faces and Farms: Photographs of Rural America in the Depression -- In this Oct. 28 talk, scheduled for 12:15-1 p.m., in the IU Art Museum, Gallery of the Art of the Western World, Doris Steinmetz Kellett Gallery of Twentieth-century Art, first floor, IU librarian Bob Goehlert will discuss the policies of the New Deal's rural antipoverty agencies -- the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration -- using photographs focusing on agrarian land and life during the 1930s.

Brother Can You Spare a Dime: Popular Music from the Great Depression -- Performance and reception, Oct 29, 5 p.m., Gerald Slocum Room, Lilly Library. IU Jacobs School of Music student Christopher Goodbeer and Alicia McCarther will sing selections from the vast sheet music collections at the Lilly Library, including "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries," "We're in the Money," and "Hallelujah I'm a Bum."