Saturday, June 12, 2021

Images of Roadside America

In the 1970's John Margolies began to take photographs on his road-trips around America. He took a particular interest in the novelty architecture and roadside attractions which can be found along the byways and highways of the United States. In 2016 the Library of Congress established the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, which consists of 11,710 images captured by Margolies since the 1970's.

The Library of Congress has released the Roadside America story map. This map allows you to explore the wonderful photographs captured by John Margolies during his travels. It also allows you to view where Margolies most traveled, through the density of the photo markers on the map. 

The huge number of photos in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive capture a period of American history which is now beginning to disappear. It reveals a culture in which the automobile and the ease of travel it provides is celebrated in the idiosyncratic architecture, advertising and attractions which could be found along its major highways. One of the reasons that Margolies began photographing these sights is that he was worried that they were beginning to disappear and were being replaced with a more anodyne, uniform modernist architecture.


At the beginning of the 20th Century Frenchman Albert Kahn also decided that he could use photography to document cultures and ways of life that were beginning to disappear. Khan decided that he would send a group of photographers around the world to capture and record every day ways of living that Khan believed were in danger of disappearing for ever. Between 1909 and 1931 Khan's photographers collected 72,000 color photographs and 183,000 meters of film. This imagery provides an amazing historical record of the world at the beginning of the 20th Century. His collection is known as The Archives of the Planet. 

The website of the Albert Khan Museum has created an interactive map which allows you to explore this incredible archive of 20th Century life by location. The Collections of the Albert Khan Museum uses a Leaflet map to show where photographs in the collection were taken and which also allows you to browse the photos by geographical location. The map includes a number of filters which also permit you to search the historical pictures of the world by different themes and categories. These include themes such as people, religion, nature and transport. You can also filter the photographs on the map by the name of the individual photographers.

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