Step back in time: University Archives exhibits WWI posters

The propaganda posters offer a glimpse of U.S. culture during the Great War

Photo/courtesy, Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of World War I, the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections has mounted an exhibition of posters from the Great War.

The 57 posters exhibited for “Patriotism and Propaganda: Poster Art in WWI America” were selected from among 92 in the university’s World War I and World War II propaganda posters collection. Because of the delicate condition of the originals—which had been publicly posted during WWI—the posters in the exhibit are professionally-created replicas of the originals.

“These posters, as many items which are created as ephemera, are fragile,” said Archives & Special Collections Outreach Librarian Surella Seelig. “They are also quite large, so by digitizing them and creating facsimiles sized to fit our needs, we were able to protect the originals while also giving our visitors a chance to see a large part of the collection.”

The exhibition was developed by Seelig and Preservation Officer and Special Projects Coordinator Leslie Reicher. They began by selecting the most striking posters in the collection to display prominently, then identified themes evident across the collection’s WWI posters and structured the exhibit around them. The themes include “Depictions of Women,” “Enlist or Invest,” “The Homefront,” “Save Food,” “Win the War,” and “Demonizing the Enemy.”

The posters were originally produced by various government-funded organizations and agencies. Some of the images offer a dose of nostalgia, but a close look at many of them reveal stark realities of war.

"These were very dark times," Reicher said.

Located on the second floor -- one floor down from the main level -- of Golbfarb Library, Archives & Special Collections is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibit will be on display through the fall 2015 semester. The digitized poster collection can be found on Brandeis's Institutional Repository. There’s also an online exhibit about the poster collection.


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