With the continued difficulties in the economy and the comparison often heard to the Great Depression I thought I’d search the Archive for some perspective. While unquestionably there was hardship and suffering, I was heartened to see footage from two places that show daily life.
The first is a series by Ivan Besse of life in Britton, South Dakota. An amazing set of scenes from small town America in the late 1930s show busy people hustling downtown, smiling faces, civic activities and generally what seems to be a tight-knit community that is happy and healthy.
The second from just a year or so later is of San Francisco, home of Internet Archive. In contrast to the Besse film this shows a teeming metropolis full of activity. This film seems more about the scale of enterprise, the high-rise hotels, people hustling to and from businesses, crowds on the Wharf, the early airport and urban life. Less smiling faces but a lively metropolis nonetheless.
During the years these were filmed there was very high unemployment. Yet programs such as the Works Progress Administration were created to provide meaningful employment for many. It was responsible for the creation of many civic projects we continue to enjoy today. Here at Internet Archive we had high hopes that the unemployment extension act that was finally approved by the Senate on Tuesday would help protect the jobs of 140 people who work here. The JobsNow program, originally part of that bill, was cut out at the last minute. So, we all hope that our representatives will find a way to extend the program so that we can continue to expand Internet Archive, a free resource that is intended to provide universal access to all knowledge.