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NPR: Found in the Archives

I curate a regular archival-showcase feature for NPR.

In the course of each documentary project I work on, I come across interesting visual material that, for a variety of reasons, doesn't make it into the finished programs. Sifting through this slag heap is where some of the most compelling pictures and stories are found. A photo album of the Eugenics Building at the Kansas State Fair, the 1957 newsreel on the rockabilly invasion of Japan, the commissioned portraits John James Audubon made before he got into birds — some of which were made by digging up the buried bodies of his subjects. For me, these are the real gems among the potshards.

Sometimes bemusing, sometimes fairly disturbing, these histories don't always fit so easily into a tidy narrative, and I love them for the way they add dimension and complications to the conventional notions of history.

Each month, "Found in the Archives" presents a newsreel, government film, collection of photographs, cartoons or maps that I've found tucked away in an archive or private collection.