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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > Washington as It Was

[Detail] Memorial Bridge from Virginia shore. 1920-1950.

1) Chronological Thinking

Each of the decades that are covered in Washington As It Was, 1923-1959 has its own distinct flavor: the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression of the 30s, World War II in the 40s, and the prosperity of the 50s. Although the collection is not organized chronologically, it can be used both to evoke the atmosphere of an era and some of the changes within the era.

Students can find photographs of people on the job. Search on switchboard operators and secretary to find photographs which show working women, as well as the equipment they used and the types of clothes they wore during that period.

Because Theodor Horydczak was a commercial photographer, the collection contains many images of consumer goods. Using the Horydczak Collection as a starting point, students can research a specific item and study the changes of its design and function over time.

For example, students might choose to study a specific kitchen appliance. Search on stove, range, and electrical appliances to find photographs showing different designs and models.

2) Historical Comprehension

The Horydczak Collection is filled with objects and events of everyday life in Washington, D.C., between 1920 and 1960. Students can read the photographs as indications of societal values.

Students may be asked to look at photographs and graphic materials that were used in advertising and discuss the ideals they convey. This could also be a starting point for a project looking at the history of advertising.

Search on advertisement and merchandise displays to find ads related to many different types of goods.

There are images in the collection that suggest the kinds of activities people participated in for entertainment. Students can look at these photographs and compare forms of these entertainments with activities that people are engaged in today. What activities are the same? What activities would be less popular today? What forms of entertainment do we enjoy today that did not exist or were in their infancy then?

To start, search on dancers, radio broadcasting, television broadcasting, and games.

3) Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Students might analyze images in the collection by asking a series of questions:

  • What do you think was the purpose of the photograph?
  • What does the photograph tell about place and time?
  • What is not represented in the photograph?

For example, students could search on miners to find a series of photographs of West Virginia coal miners. Looking carefully at these images, students might be asked to assess labor/management relations in the 1930s. Students could then research the issue and report back to the class on their findings.

4) Historical Research Capabilities

The collection contains a wide variety of photographs that could contribute to research topics. Three subject areas are strongly represented in the Horydczak Collection: architecture; transportation; and technology. Use the questions and search words below as starting points. What are some other areas students might research?

1. Architecture and Suburban Development

  • What designs were popular and why?
  • What causes contributed to suburban growth during the period?

Search on housing development, houses, and home interiors.

2. Transportation

  • What modes of transportation are included in the collection?
  • Are changes evident in the design of cars or planes?
  • What changes occurred in the time span of the photographs?

Search on automobile, airplane, trains, and locomotives.

3. Technology

  • What changes in technology are shown within the photographs?
  • What appliances do we have now that were not available then?
  • What appliances available then are no longer in use?

Search on telephone, appliances, and office equipment.