Tour the digital National Archives

Submitted by Sammy Smith (

ARC_1633434 _people_working_cotton_field.jpg

Photograph of People Working in a Cotton Field; ARC Identifier 1633434 / Local Identifier 83-ML-4-90

Here’s a picture of people working in a cotton field. There’s no information about where it was taken. Where do you think the people and the field were? Why?

When was the photograph taken? The archival information is not terribly helpful. The photo is tagged “Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 1876–1959” by the National Archives, which make the image available online, but the span is over seven decades, so rather general. But wait, down further in the online record, the photo is part of a series called “Agricultural Marketing and Rural Life, compiled 1902–1938.” But does “compiled” help us narrow the date the photo was taken?

The US National Archives and Records Administration keeps papers, photographs, moving images, and more, only a very few of which are available online. Congress established the Archives in 1934, and staff immediately began to search government files for materials to store. The Archives now have 37 facilities scattered nationwide.

Perhaps you’d like to search the online records listing yourself. Click here to browse the subject tags. Or click here to browse the latest Prologue Magazine, which showcases materials from the Archives.