illustrated history

I was recently faced with writing a lecture on the Russian Revolution, and so knowing that I would have the opportunity to use powerpoint, I spent some time reviewing the online troves of historical photographs that I’ve come across in recent years.

Google images is of course a natural place to start searching for pictures.  One useful feature is a setting on its Advanced Search page that lets you specify whether you want to find materials that is free to use or share, free to modify, or even free for commercial use.

The AHA blog has written a number of articles on online image resources, but only a few are relevant to Russia and Soviet topics.  One is the LIFE magazine photo archive; particularly interesting to me were Margaret Bourke-White’s photographs from the Soviet Union in 1941.  Another resource that has potential to grow is The Commons on Flikr.

If I had to recommend just one website, it would be 17 Moments in Soviet History, an “online archive of primary source materials on Soviet history.”  While it is far from an exhaustive source of images, they are all fully cited and presented in context.  Many of the images are drawn from and linked to other on-line repositories.  The site also includes audio and video files.

The Digital Gallery of Historical Photos – Russia from the NY Public Library includes many fully scanned albums of photos from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Blogger Dmitri Minaev recently flagged a beautiful and growing online collection of photos by classic photographers, including Alexander Rodchenko and Maxim Dmitriev.

Speaking of blogs, English Russia is made up almost entirely of photographs, sometimes on historical subjects.  For instance, one post is dedicated to Maxim Dmitriev’s photographs of late 19th century Russia.  Another post is dedicated to the wide range of Russian currency notes around the time of the revolution.  It seems as if the blog often consists of reader submissions, but unfortunately citation information is rarely presented.  And a word of warning: the adverts on this site can be rather obnoxious.

Finally, there are some great photographs in a recent Foreign Affairs review of David King’s Red Star Over Russia.


February 5, 2010. Exhibits, Images, Primary Sources, Teaching.

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