See rare images depicting life, work at the White House
See rare images depicting life, work at the White House This photograph by Joseph J. Scherschel shows President Lyndon B. Johnson and former president Harry S. Truman prior to signing Social Security Act Amendments, which established both Medicare and Medicaid. This photograph was taken at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri on July 30, 1965. (The White House Historical Association)
See rare images depicting life, work at the White House
Lexile: 1510L

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Only a sliver of what goes on at the White House is ever seen by the public, usually through a very manicured lens.

But a team of librarians at the White House Historical Association, which aims to preserve and provide access to White House history, has spent the past two years working to digitize about 25,000 behind-the-scenes photographs to offer a revealing glimpse of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As Betsy Klein of CNN reports, the images, which were previously uncatalogued, capture scenes from 1962 to 1987, spanning the Kennedy to the Reagan administrations.

Since the only information available for most slides in storage was the month and year the film was developed, librarians had to work like detectives, paying close attention to details of the photo slides to identify how the images fit into the timeline of historical events and other records.

For example, librarians were able to identify civil rights leaders in a photo from a 1966 meeting with President Lyndon Johnson by using Johnson's daily diary. 

A team of historians fact-checked the photo information, making revisions when necessary, before the images were digitized online. Klein reports the ongoing project is part of a partnership with Amazon Web Services, which provides cloud storage and support.

Other images on the organization's new online library include scenes of press reporters during the Johnson administration — men in workspaces on telephones and reporters relaxing on leather chairs. 

The Gemini 4 NASA team also makes an appearance. Not only do the images show the astronauts being presented with the Exceptional Service Medal, but they also capture the astronauts at a more candid moment, as they play in the White House pool with their families at the invitation of Johnson.

Founded in 1961 as an effort by Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Historical Association works to preserve and provide access to White House history. The organization also collects information on first ladies and other important figures in the White House, art and decorations from the space and architectural changes throughout the White House’s history. Additionally, it's charged with commissioning an annual White House christmas ornament honoring past presidents. This past year, it honored former President Harry Truman.

Klein writes the team is only halfway done with its digitization project, and many more images are set to make their way from storage to digital library in the coming months. For now, you can check out the trove of images currently available on the site.

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What do you think the general public would be most interested in seeing about day-to-day life at the White House?
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  • EmilyS-pla
    2/18/2019 - 09:47 a.m.

    In order to shed more light on our history,the White House Historical Association has been working for 2 years to uncover roughly 25,000 behind-the-scenes pictures from the White House taken between the years 1962 to 1987. These images reveal candid moments of our past leaders and guests in the White House during influential moments in history. By dissecting the images, the librarians of the Historical Association are linking certain images to pinnacle moments in America's history, revealing sides of our administration never before seen. In regards to civic engagement, these pictures give Americans knowledge and insight about our country and its leaders. These librarians are playing their part in educating the public on not only secret images, but also the events taking place in the images. This discovery will give America a chance to understand our past, and clear up some areas of ambiguity about the nature of our past leaders.

  • EmileeW-pla
    2/18/2019 - 09:50 a.m.

    Julissa Treviño writes through this article about the limited view the U.S. public has on the internal workings of the White House. Now, some of these internal workings have been revealed to the public, as pictures labeled as categorized from the years 1962 to 1987 have been developed, dated and labeled. The process of pinpointing the exact event of the photograph was no easy task, as librarians shuffled through timelines, even using tools such as President Johnson's daily diary to locate the exact date of a 1966 meeting with civil rights leaders. Now, some photos have been uploaded to a site with more still to come.
    Oftentimes, the personal glow of history is lost in the rush of political opinions and stone hard fact. An inside look at the White House reminds U.S. citizens that our leaders have not been-- and never will be-- flawless people with impeccable lives. Instead, our leaders are people like us, and when we begin to understand the strong connection we all have simply as humans, we accomplish a level of patriotism that is seemingly missing today.

  • WillC-pla
    2/18/2019 - 10:22 p.m.

    This article goes over a series of approximately 25,000 images that have been digitized in order to exemplify life in the White House. A team of librarians have been "playing detectives" in order to find the timeline of historical events. One instrument of civic engagement is being involved in government. This specific article discusses how a group of librarians are digitizing these images which allows the average American to have a better view of the White House and in a way how the government works.

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