After several years and a lengthy digitizing process, a group of historical photos of local buildings taken during The Great Depression is now online and accessible by the public.
The Connecticut State Library has spent the past few years taking old survey data collected under the Work Projects Administration (WPA) — a federal program that put people back to work who couldn’t find jobs during the 1930s — and uploading them to an online database. New towns have been added on a regular basis, however according to reference librarian Carol Ganz, it depends on what staff are available to commit to the project.
“We’ve been slowly adding more towns,” Ganz said. “So each time more towns we notify the press that’s related to those towns.”
The online collection now stretches from Andover to Oxford, with the “N” towns like Naugatuck being added recently. For Naugatuck, there are 10 images in the databse while for Oxford there are a whopping 62 images. Ganz said the disparity in image count depended on how much time the surveyor spent in each community.
Under the WPA, which lasted from 1934 to 1937, workers visited every town in Connecticut to survey it’s old buildings, document the different aspects of each structure and snap a photo of them, explained Ursula Hunt, administrative assistance at the state library. The data was then archived at the Connecticut State Library, which has remained in a collection since the Great Depression.
“The WPA sent teams out to those different towns,” she said. “They took pictures and filled out survey forms with information, the original owner, the date, among others.”
The majority of the surveys and data collected were houses, however there were some schools, factories, churches and libraries included, Hunt said. She said the surveys were then deposited in the state archives, with entries continuing to come as late as 1942.
Eventually, the state library wanted to begin digitizing the material and decided it was overdue in trying to get the materials online.
“This was one of the first things we started,” Ganz said. “We decided this is a very popular (initiative), and one that lent itself a lot of time digitizing.”
Visitors that click on one of the pictures on the database will be able to see a profile of the home or building in question. The original survey data is located from the point that says “date” to the point that says “tell us more.”
Eventually, Ganz said readers will be able to make amendments to each database item, which will be noted in a separate text box on the website. For example, if a home was destroyed or taken down, this will be noted on each item, she said.