What Makes You Happy? Collections That Spark Joy!

Several people dancing together, with the men wearing suits and the women in short dresses and flats

Washington, D.C. Jitterbugs at an Elk’s Club dance, the “cleanest dance in town”. arm Security Administration/Office of War Information; Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This post was written by Talia Smith, Mary Ellen Hawkins, and Eori Tokunaga, interns in the Library’s Informal Learning Office.

From Talia Smith, George Washington University, Master’s Student in Museum Education:

“Nothing brightens my day quite like dancing! Dancing has the ability to bring groups of people together in celebration and foster a sense of community. The pictures of “Jitterbugs” at an Elk’s club in Washington,  from 1943 always put a smile on my face. Each picture in this series beautifully captures the exuberance of youth and the vitality of dancing. These images are also snapshots of what life was like for young people of the era. By observing the different images, you can tell what the latest fashions were, how people danced, and even what kinds of music they listened to. My favorite aspect of these images is how you can see the excitement and energy in the dancers’ faces. Most importantly, what makes me happy is remembering that today, many young people still love to dance!”

From Mary Ellen Hawkins, Teaching with Primary Sources Intern:

A reading poster displaying the the words "It's a Whole Great Big Fun Thing", under which a frog in a suit reads a comically-large book while paddling a rowboat.

It’s a whole great big fun thing; Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“If  there’s one thing that makes me happy, it’s a frog in a suit. This image is something I grew up with, absorbed through books like “The Wind in the Willows.” The Library has much to offer in the frog-in-a-suit canon. This reading poster exemplifies why I love this kind of frog content. How can you not be charmed by this scene? Then, this print illustration by Kuniyoshi Utagawa showcases 14 frogs dressed as heroes from kabuki plays. I would totally watch this play! Finally, there is a lovely photograph of Jim Henson and perhaps the most famous American frog. Granted, Kermit rarely wears a suit, but he sure loves to play his banjo by the pond. If frogs aren’t your thing, check out the tag ‘Animals in Human Situations‘ for silly pictures of cats, dogs, and more.”

From Eori Tokunaga, San Jose State University, Master’s Student in Library and Information Science:

“As an aspiring author and illustrator for picture books, I am inspired to write new stories by watching cartoons. Outside my internship with the Young Readers Center-Programs Lab, I work as an illustrator for a gaming company so I am always researching new ideas. I wanted to highlight this Krazy Kat cartoon, as well as this snippet of Gertie on Tour, because I love how the characters have little to no dialogue, yet display so many emotions through their actions. Early animators did not have the same time or tools as animators do today, so it’s amazing to see how early animators would tell a story in such a short amount of time, similar to how picture book writers today tell a story in just a few pages. Watching these cartoons from the Library of Congress not only gives me a good laugh, but it also reminds me why I love doing the work that I do.

Happiness can be found in so many different ways! Everything from dancing, to looking at frogs in suits, to watching vintage cartoons can spark joy and inspiration. As we move into the warmer season of spring, we hope you will explore the Library’s online collections to discover the items that make you happy, and share them with the people you love!