The New Deal Network:

Thomas J. Thurston
Studying the New Deal can be a daunting affair. It is difficult to grasp both the vast scope of the New Deal programs and the enormity of the social, economic, and environmental conditions they were meant to address. I recall my own introduction to the subject, in which I was expected to recite by rote an alphabet of New Deal agencies. Despite the fact that the period had a profound impact on the lives of millions of Americans, including my own parents and grandparents, I found it hard to appreciate the true dimensions of the era. Lacking an intimate vision of the Depression, my image of the New Deal was shaped by a handful of stock photographs that lost their potency through overuse: the apple vendor, the breadline, the dust-ridden farmstead, and-seemingly out of place-the jaunty figure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Another record of the New Deal, largely unremarked, lies before us in the 650,000 miles of sidewalks and highways built by WPA workers; in the schools, libraries, community centers, hiking trails, and stadiums still in use today; and in the recollections of those who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Youth Administration, and other work relief agencies. The federal government went about documenting the public works projects of the 1930s with the same thoroughness that it went about creating these programs. Hundreds of thousands of documents and photographs reside in the collections of the National Archives and the Library of Congress. Still more can be found in state and local historical societies.

The New Deal Network, a Web site developed by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in partnership with The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Marist College, and IBM, is committed to gathering together and presenting these documents for the use of students, scholars, and teachers. We have created a database, consisting of several thousand images of the Great Depression taken from a variety of sources, which will continue to be developed over the next three years.

The New Deal Network will be more than another online photographic archive. We have invited scholars to contribute online essays concerning the social and economic issues that confronted America during the Great Depression, issues that are as timely today as they were sixty years ago. Educators from the Bank Street College of Education and elsewhere are assisting us in developing thematically driven curriculum packages for the use of high school and middle school teachers.

In addition, we are providing information to teachers and students on how to document the impact of New Deal programs in their local communities. Teachers will be able to assist their students in gathering primary resources, documenting their findings, and editing their work for publication on the New Deal Network. In publishing information about the histories of their communities, students will become invested in both their work and their communities.

The New Deal Network will be launched in October 1996, which has been designated Roosevelt History Month by President Clinton and a resolution of the United States Senate. The world wide web site can be reached at

Thomas J. Thurston is Project Director for the New Deal Network site on the World Wide Web at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York.

Sites Related to FDR and the New Deal on the World Wide Web

FDR Library: via Marist College under "College Connections" at:

FDR Library: via National Archives at: president/address.html

The New Deal Network:

Political Cartoons: nisk_hs/departments/ social/fdr_html/fdrmain

FDR's four inaugural speeches (the White House has a section on each president) at: WH/glimpse/presidents/html/ fr32.html

Fireside Chats: fdr.html

Life History Manuscripts from the Folklore Project, WPA Federal Writer's Project, 1936-1940, at Library of Congress: ammem/wpaintro/ wpahome.html

Color Photographs from the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, ca. 1938-1944 at Library of Congress: fsowhome.html