Ultimate Americana


“Not an ostrich—but the oddly plumed Floradora goose,” reads the caption for the photo that inspired the title of the Library of Congress’ current photography exhibition, “Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library.” Over the decades, the Library of Congress has amassed more than 14 million photographs chronicling American culture. A select 400 of those photos featuring both the significant and the everyday are on display at the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building through the fall.

The exhibition is organized into sections, including portraits; arts, sports, and leisure; social, political and religious life; icons; panoramas; photographers; the built environment; and business and science. The collection includes sections featuring the archives of Carol M. Highsmith (see “America’s Documentarian,” March 2023), Camilo José Vergara, and the Detroit Publishing Co. Some of the photos feature famous people and significant moments, while others picture the everyday silliness of American life throughout photography’s history. Photography’s evolution from daguerreotypes to digital is on full display.  

Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.