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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Architecture and Interior Design

[Detail] New York city views. Sutton Place (Samuel H Gottscho)

1) Chronological Thinking

The photos in Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America, 1935-1955, emphasize the culture and social patterns of the middle and upper classes in New York City and environs over a 25-year period. Photographs of interiors of homes, such as Living Room in a Long Island Residence, provide visual clues to aspirations and values.

Suggest that students search on Levittown houses and the names of towns such as Dobbs Ferry or Port Chester to discuss what the images of homes, gardens, businesses, and recreational facilities in these places reveal about middle and upper class life. Have students compare their impressions to today's social climate.

2) Historical Comprehension

Trylon and Perisphere May 24, 1939

The theme of the New York World's Fair of 1939 was "The World of Tomorrow," and exhibits were intended to emphasize how technology would make life better for everyone. The enduring images of the Fair were the Trylon and Perisphere.

Students can search World's Fair views, General Electric exhibit, or General Motors building and use the images as a starting point to discuss these questions:

  • Why might corporations choose to sponsor major exhibits at the World's Fair?
  • What messages do you think the corporations were trying to convey?
  • What do these exhibits reveal about American hopes for technology during that time period?
  • What was the American view of the future at the World's Fair?

3) Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Students can review the images they have examined to identify the photographer's point of view. To guide their analysis, suggest that they consider the following questions:

  • What is meant by point of view?
  • What details might help you identify the photographer's point of view?
  • What details has the photographer left out of the picture? What does this tell you about the photographer's point of view?
  • Why do you think the photographer did not include people in most of the images?

This discussion can lead to an understanding of the value of photographic records as well as the limitations of using them as historical evidence.

4) Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision Making

Sunny Brook Houses Nov. 12, 1943

This period of American history is characterized by the development of suburbs and the expansion of cities. The collection includes photographs of suburbia and suburban homes as well as construction projects in the city.

Images of suburban development can lead to an analysis of such timely issues as the costs and benefits of growth; land use; and the need for city planning and zoning regulations.

Search on housing developments, Sunny Brook houses, and Calvert houses to locate examples of the expanding suburbs.

Students might discuss the following questions:

  • Do you think the creation of these suburbs was a good thing? Why or why not?
  • How do the photographs in this collection support your point of view? Can you find other sources that support your opinion?
  • Does this trend in building continue today?

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