This web site explores the issues of narrative and representation in two New Deal cultural projects. Through the work of the Federal Writers' Project in Florida and photographs taken by the Farm Security Administration, I use the image of Florida to work out larger questions about a "nation of communities," documentary expression in the 1930s, and the politics of public history.

In conventional terms, the site is organized into four categories of material: musings on the logic of the Thirties to help you contextualize these cultural projects, an exploration of the Florida guidebook written by the FWP, an introduction to the photography of the FSA, and a study of jook joints, which brings together both sets of sources to mine some of Florida's rich cultural life.

Within each of these sections, I have tried to build a network of links and cross-references that undermine the conventional architecture, so that there isn't only one framework for experiencing the site. You can, if you wish, simply move through the material in the most immediately evident and linear way: first familiarizing yourself with the context of the Thirties, then checking out the history of the FWP guidebooks and FSA photography, then moving to the "case study" of sorts that draws upon both these sources. Your choices are, however, not intended to boil down to what order you read chapters in. You can start where you like. You don't have to read everything in one section before moving on to another.

You might want to check out some tips on how to navigate the site before you begin.

This home page serves as an introduction to the project, but it is also somewhere you should return to for some other features of the site you might not want to start off with:

•   I have organized a thematic tour through some of the material on this site that provides an alternate way of reading this project...(it might be interesting to get to that, for contrast, after beginning in a more conventional way...)

•   Why is this project a web site?

•   Bibliography

•   List of primary documents appearing in original form on this site

•   Read some formal responses to my project and a note on the future of the project and the perils of web publishing...


Please email me at with any comments or criticism. I'm particularly interested in hearing about how people read this project.


Thanks go to Delinda Buie at the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Louisville, for her help and expression of support; Joyce Dewsbury at the Archives and Visual Collections, University of Florida Libraries, Gainesville, Florida, who solved a mystery; and John Owens at Oxford University Press.

Also to Lauren Blumenthal for the brainstorming, with the flu around the bend and lots to do... and to John Appley for telling me to get those graphics out of his face, and other good suggestions...

To friends and family for listening to muffled despair over library phone lines and generally offering support, especially to Amy for the solidarity...

And, of course, to Carol Lasser, who took me up when I had been "cured" of the mentor myth and whose insight, commitment, and integrity have enriched my experience immeasurably.


All materials reproduced on this site are credited to their sources, except for the "Contemporary Scene" essay and the map of Florida, which were originally published in Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, by Oxford University Press, in 1939 and are now in the public domain.

Juliet Gorman, May 2001