Index of American Design

One of the interesting byproducts of my visit to the Outliers show at the National Gallery was learning about the “Index of American Design.” This was a Works Progress Administration project to document objects. It was accomplished by sending watercolorists all over the country to find design examples and create images. (Photography might seem a better medium for this kind of work, but in fact, the watercolors, with their detail and color, probably did more than photography could have offered in the 30s and 40s. And there is the practical possibility that more painters, rather than photographers, were the ones out of work. Certainly the results are beautiful.)

Here are a handful of images from the Index. More at this link.

And here’s a bite from a documentary on the Index.

Would be wonderful to have them all digitized sometime, although there are 20,000 so would be a formidable undertaking.



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