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LOC Releases WWII Sketchbook Archive

The Library of Congress recently digitized and made available a new online archive of eight sketchbooks made by architect Victor A. Lundy when he served in World War II. The eight sketchbooks have a total of 158 pencil sketches and everything’s been digitized; they’re available at

Unlike other archives and exhibits I’ve seen where an artist might have a fairly good-sized medium, Mr. Lundy had a 3×5 spiral-bound sketchbook and a pencil. That’s it. For some sketches he does studies of faces; sometimes he’ll do detailed drawings of buildings, and sometimes it’s just the rapidly-sketched activity of a group.

You can view all the pages here, but the home page of the exhibit has a list of the sketchbooks in chronological order, along with a few comments from Mr. Lundy. Pick a sketchbook and you’ll get a set of images (including the sketchbook cover) with the option to look at large images and download archive-size TIFFs.

If you want to get a good sense of Mr. Lundy’s drawings, look at volume 5, “1944 August-September. En route to Europe,” but they’re all worth browsing. A great collection.

(Almost) One Million Giraffes

So there’s this guy. And he made a bet with his friend that he could collect one million giraffes by the end of 2010. And at the moment he has over 800,000 and the year’s not even half over. And he’s gathering all the giraffes at And I’m covering it here because a) it’s a great example of crowdsourcing and b) who doesn’t want to browse a collection of over 800,000 human-generated giraffes?

The rules, as seen at you may not use a computer to create your giraffe. (Except to scan in your drawing, etc.) You may not go to the store and purchase your giraffe. You must create your giraffe yourself (which means unless you’re a giraffe and engaging in productive giraffe-whoopee, taking pictures of giraffes at the zoo doesn’t count, because you didn’t create them.) A picture or sculpture of a giraffe counts for as many giraffes are present; in other words, if you draw a picture of ten giraffes, that counts as ten toward the final count of one million. Taking ten pictures of your giraffe sculpture from ten different angles, however, only counts as one.

One Million Giraffes has a search box. “Why?” I thought, “There is only one possible keyword.” But the search lets you specify name, age, city, and country, or any combination. I searched for giraffes made by 52-year-olds, and good heavens, I found over ten thousand. Results include thumbnails of the giraffe images, and if you click on the thumbnail you get a popup with a larger image and the name, age, and location of the contributor (I got the impression that you didn’t have to provide all that data when submitting giraffes, as it wasn’t available for all of them.) There’s also a direct link to the giraffe image and links to put it on Twitter or Facebook. As you might expect most of the images are drawings, but I also found giraffe embroidery, paintings on eggs, balloon sculpture, and one lovely fellow fashioned out of Diet Coke cans. (And a couple of drawings that looked like they were done by 5.2 year olds, but not 52-year-olds — don’t believe everything you search for.)

In addition to the searching, there are many other ways to explore the collection. You can play a game where you guess how old a contributor is by the picture they submitted (I am terrible at this game.) You can look at random giraffe images. You can look at giraffe submission statistics or explore a map. There’s a blog, of course, and an RSS feed.

This project reminds me somewhat of The Sheep Market, where 10000 sheep were created/drawing using Mechanical Turk, only all of those were computer-related (the Web site lets you pick sheep and see how they were drawn.) One Million Giraffes is a reminder of how tens of thousands of people can look at the same subject — a giraffe — a different way, and create many many many different perspectives. A large data pool of giraffes to be sure, but an equally large contemplation of how people think.

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Gets Database

The Georgia O’Keeffe Musuem has announced an online database with over 3,000 images of items from its collection as well as archival materials. This includes lots of drawings and paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe herself. You can access the museum at

You may either browse the collection or search it by keyword. Browsing involves going through different types of collections — Drawings, Paintings, & Sculpture; Photography; Georgia O’Keeffe General Correspondence; Personal Tangible Property; and William Innes Homer Papers.

The Drawings, Paintings, and Sculptures collection alone has over 900 items in it; I just started there. The listing of items includes a thumbnail of the item, a title (or a description if it was untitled), name of the artist (O’Keeffe, naturally) and the date of creation if available. Click on the thumbnail and get a lot more details including dimensions, medium, etc.

Now let me tell you something so you don’t miss out. The detail page has a small image and a large image. It looks like this is it, and you might think, “Wow, that’s irritating. I can’t view more detail than this?” Look in the upper left corner. You’ll see a magnifying glass and a 12.5% notation. You can magnify the large image another eight times or so and use the smaller image to navigate around the details. Also up in that corner there’s a link to add an item to your “Favorites” or to get a citation URL for the item you’re viewing.

Wanting to explore more, I did a keyword search for the collection; naturally I searched for skull. I got 31 results. Some of these were multiple shots of a patio and the side of a house but there were also several drawings here, photographs, and even a few of those “tangible items.” Actual skulls.

Be sure to view a great image of a skull with a broken pot, and a perhaps unintentionally funny photograph of two ladies gingerly holding a critter skull. The search results look very much like the browse results, with thumbnails, creation date, etc.

Once you’ve explored the collections, be sure to go back and check out the museum’s site itself, which contains an O’Keeffe biography, overviews of her art and the houses in which she lived, and of course information on the museum’s hours, collections, research, and everything else you might expect.

I enjoyed browsing these databases. There was enough here that you could do a lot of exploring (and the zooming ability is terrific!) but not so much that you feel overwhelmed or like you can’t find anything familiar. Recommended.

LOC Adds Civil War Drawings

I got a treat last week when I read a little blurb in the Library of Congress blog about the recently digitized Morgan Collection of Civil War Drawings. This set contains more than 1,600 eyewitness sketches made during the US Civil War. I don’t have a direct URL for you, but go to and start your search with Morgan Collection of Civil War Drawings.

That’ll give you 1655 results, from “The Veteran” to “Death of Reynolds — Gettysburg.” Each search result listed the date of the drawing and the artist; if you want to get fewer details but see thumbnails of the images click on the “Preview Images.”

Images have their own detail pages, which includes information about the medium of the drawing, any copyright restrictions, and additional notes. There’s a slightly larger version of the image as well. Click on that and you will not get an even larger image, but you will get the option to download archival quality versions of the images. Note: some of these images are pretty huge; the TIFF version of an 1864 snowball fight sketch I downloaded weighed in at over 125 MB.

If you’re looking for something specific, just add keywords to that initial “Morgan Collection” search — it’ll narrow down your results a lot. I added battle to the initial phrase and got 556 drawings.

Civil War history buffs, don’t miss it, especially if you liked the images from the Becker Collection. And don’t miss the links for the larger image downloads.

Huge Online Database of Blueprints

A bit thanks to Kottke for the pointer for The Blueprints, a huge online database of more than 37,000 blueprints, templates, and drawings, it’s available at

You can do a keyword search but the front page gets you started off right for browsing with pointers to all kinds of categories including trucks, planes, science fiction, ships, tanks, and even humans. I chose the “WWI Airplanes” category. That got me a list of subcategories breaking the planes down by country (the countries with the most planes were England, France, and Germany.) Choosing “WWI USA” brought a list of 14 airplanes, with details including dimensions of the blueprints, what viewers are available (front, top, rear, side) the size, and the date it was added. There was also an icon for source, which for some blueprints was a company and some was a person. Click on the model number for the actual blueprint.

If you’re not registered/logged in, your view of the blueprints will be limited to a 500 x 500 size. Actually I found there were many blueprints I couldn’t see, limited or not, when I wasn’t registered. Once you register (it’s free) you’ll be able to see the blueprints in the original size — and many of the ones I looked at were very large, 4009×5288 for example.

In addition to the blueprints, the site also has vector drawings, but these a) seem to be limited to cars and b) cost money to download (you buy credits, and then you download using the credits.)

Plenty to see and the blueprints would make excellent starting points for kids who like to draw cars, Star Wars vehicles, tanks, etc. I don’t think that’s the target audience but it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the Sopwith blueprints.

Stunning Archive of Eyewitness Drawings from the Civil War

I am breaking one of my informal rules by covering this site. It’s a support archive for an offline exhibit which I’m not planning to visit as it is several hundred miles away. But I’m covering it here because its contents are just astounding. If you have any interest in military history, especially the American Civil War, do not miss this site.

I’m talking about “First Hand: Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection,” an offline exhibit at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. These are eyewitness drawings from over a dozen different artists that chronicle both the Civil War and life in the mid- to late-19th century. Its Web site is

The site has an overview of what the exhibit is all about and there is biographical information on the artists. There’s also a featured images link — this was a slideshow that played really, really fast! (There are controls in the upper corner; the first thing I did was pause it.) Instead you might want to use one of the browsing options; you can view by date, by place, by subject, by artists, or by reference numbers.

I chose to view by subject and got lots of options, including Civil War (camp life, military ceremonies, architecture and townscapes, and ships) as well as non-Civil war (including post-war reconstruction, railroad building, and even the Spanish-American War.) There’s also the option to view battle scenes by site, battle, general, etc. I looked at the Siege of Fort Macon and got 208 images. I don’t know a lot about the naval history of the Civil War so I wasn’t sure how to connect the siege of Petersburg to Fort Macon — the images in these results were all over the place. But it’s a good example to look at if you want to see some of the drawings of battles and the aftermath.

Listings include a thumbnail of the image, image title, and date. Click on the title and you’ll get more information about the image including any notes, and a slightly larger version of the image. Click on the image itself and you’ll get a pop-out window with controls that allow you to zoom in on and pan around the image.

All the images I looked at were pencil sketches. You’d think in this day and age of streaming video and color photography from everywhere that pencil sketches wouldn’t have a lot of impact. But they did. Most of them were very well done and conveyed a tremendous sense of time and place. Some of them I found shocking, like this image of a night attack at Petersburg. Some of them I found very moving — military executions of deserters and traitors, the after images of the Chicago Fire, the release of Union prisoners in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I don’t normally review sites that support an offline exhibit, figuring the offline materials will be only marginally supported by the online sites. That was not so in this case. What an excellent site. As I said in the beginning of this writeup, if you are at all interested in military history, do not miss this site.


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