The Digital Public Library of America—Investigating American Diversity

JeromeRelocation 43I found this fascinating photograph of a sewing class at the Jerome Relocation Camp for Japanese Americans in Arkansas by typing “sewing pattern” into the search engine of the Digital Public Library of America.  This recent venture aims to collect the digital resources of libraries and archives across the United States.  Although coverage is still spotty, it is an adventure to test the site’s resources.  It includes not only photographs of people, but also pictures of artifacts, books scans, and even video clips. The DPLA site will take you back to the sites of the sponsoring institutions. My investigative searches brought up all kinds of resources I had not known about, including the Digital Library of Georgia, which has a wonderful photo series called “Vanishing Georgia.”

Turning to the photograph at hand, it shows a crowded classroom in Denton, Arkansas in 1943. The image comes originally from the National Archives. This appears to be a class investigating the process of rotating darts in bodice patterns.  Both young and older Japanese American women crowd the tables, dressed predominantly in dark clothing.  Cardigan sweaters are the most favored clothing item.  I noted one big difference between the generations. The younger women were more likely to wear their hair loose, while their older colleagues wore their hair back tied back in buns or covered with scarves and snoods.

I am looking forward to integrating the resources of this new site in order to investigate the complex backgrounds of American older women.

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