Turn of the Century America by Pen and Camera: Social Histories in the American Viewbooks Collection
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The American Viewbooks Collection in Avery Classics, the rare books division of Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, consists of works originally produced as promotional and commemorative items depicting American cities and towns during the late 19th and early 20th century. Avery Classics recently completed a rare books cataloging project, funded by a CLIR Hidden Collections Grant, to catalog the Viewbooks Collection, which had long been exclusively described in the library’s physical card catalog. The author of this article was in sustained contact with the collection over the course of two years, initially as an intern cataloger, then as a supervisor to student catalogers. Within these wide-ranging books that cover all corners of the United States, the author noted several patterns of content and theme that elucidate broader stories of the American cultural landscape at the turn of the 20th century.