Works Progress Administration Maps

I have a great fondness for the products of the Works Progress Administration. I think it’s fascinating that the U.S. government found a way to hire unemployed workers during the Great Depression to protect land and build infrastructure, create art, and document society (and I love that, as a product of the U.S. Government, these materials are in the public domain!).

Some of the documentation, such as the collecting of slave narratives, reached back into the past but occurred just in time, before all those who remembered living in slavery were gone. Other projects documented then-contemporary society, providing a very detailed view of life in the United States during the 1930s. One such project was the “Real property survey and low income housing area survey of Louisville, Kentucky,” which is now available online via the University of Louisville Libraries Digital Collections. This set of 15 maps, created in March 1939, depicts information about Louisville housing and its owners/renters, including housing in poor condition and lacking private bathrooms; average monthly rental values; and race of household.

Urban studies enthusiasts and those following the Louisville Metro Housing Authority’s Hope VI initiatives may be among those interested in these historical maps.

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