Wednesday, April 16, 2008

University of Illinois French WWI Poster Collection

• Project name:

French World War I Posters

Organization name:

University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign

• Description:

On this website, one can find digitized versions of 105 posters published in France during World War I. The originals are part of the University of Illinois Archives. The poster began to be considered an art form in the late 19th Century, made possible by new printing techniques. World War I marks the first time in history that posters were used as a political tool. Now considered propaganda, the posters were employed by the French government to mobilize the animosity of the community against the enemy, to maintain friendly relations with neutrals and allies and to boost morale. Some important themes featured in this collection are disease and wartime, the image of the German, the “poilu,” or French soldier, bank loans, Marianne (a symbol of victory), allegiance with the United States, the “ghost army” and women and children. The posters were issued by institutions and organizations such as the French War Ministry, French and British banks, the American Red Cross, YMCA Union Franco-Americaine, Comite Nationale de Prevoyance et d'Economies, and associations Francaise contre la Propagande Ennemie. The project features French artists such as Jules Abel Faivre, Maurice Neumont, Atelier Pichon, and Theodore Steinlien.

• Audience:

The audience for this project would be students of the University of Illinois, as well as anyone interested in history, mass communications, gender studies, visual arts, political science, and many other multidisciplinary fields.

• Background information:

The original posters are housed in the University of Illinois Archives. Repairs and encapsulation were accomplished prior to 2001 using funds provided by a gift of Marian H. Thompson, and the posters were scanned between 2001 and 2005. This website created by graduate assistants from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library during academic year 2006-2007.

• Presentation:

The entire collection can be browsed using CONTENTdm, where they are presented as a thumbnail with their title, subject and description. The website also offers separate pages with information on the artists, themes and a timeline of the war, featuring select posters as examples to underscore the information presented. The physical location of each poster is offered as well.

• Additional Information:

The additional information offered by the site is great. The website provides links to related sites, like the Library of Congress: Guide to WWI Materials, Georgetown’s WWI poster collection (though that particular link has an error; clicking on it will bring the user to the wrong page so he or she must copy and paste the URL) and a site called Propaganda Postcards of the Great War. The website also offers a great bibliography; very useful for users looking to learn more about subject materials presented on the site.

• Metadata:

The metadata used includes the title, language, the French text, its English translation, the artist, the printer, a description, subject, subject TGM, date, dimensions, sponsor and location details.

• Ease of use:

The site is incredibly easy to use. I love the way it is laid out – by theme, artist and with the timeline. The material covers so many interesting aspects of the time period, French culture, war culture, and art. It is easy to navigate and visually appealing. I keep coming back to browse the collection! I have yet to find one problem with this site, other than the broken link mentioned above.

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