Top of page

Taking a Closer Look at Prints and Photographs

Share this post:

Teaching with the Library of Congress is not the only blog sponsored by the Library. A total of nine blogs, each written by reference specialists and scholars from throughout the Library,  provide opportunities for Library staff members to share unique aspects of the collections as well as research they have done using parts of the collections.

Picture This

Staff from the Prints and Photographs Division write Picture This, a blog featuring unique images. Sometimes they discuss how they solve mysteries found in the collections themselves. One such mystery story can be found at A Closer Look: Beware of Photos Bearing False Captions.

As reference librarian Kristi Finefield notes, the title provided for a photograph does not always match the content of the photograph. Looking at a pair of similar photographs, she guides readers through the process she used to determine whether the two images are actually from two different events and from two different days, as indicated by the titles etched by the photographer into the glass negatives.

Information literacy demands close reading of text and close observation of visual sources. Students will often glance quickly at a photograph and assume they have all of the information they need. Encourage them to slow down and think more deeply, just as they must with print sources. Information literacy also requires questioning how the information in a source compares to what they already know and information in other sources, including the caption. Encourage students to spend time looking at photographs and determine if the captions provided accurately describe the events taking place.

Mormon pioneers advanced company coming over Little Mountain

Have your students study and analyze this image. What questions do they have? What would they research to determine if the note typed at the top of the image accurately describes what is happening in the image? Show them the information about the image and ask them what the summary adds to their understanding.

Replicate the situation that Kristi Finefield faced. Show students the photograph marked Suffragettes, Union Sq., 5/2/14 and the photograph marked Union Sq., 5/1/14. First, ask them to identify details that might indicate that the images are of the same scene. Then ask them to look closely for details that might identify the nature of the event depicted. If time allows, direct them to read newspapers from the time to see if they can confirm their hypothesis.

How do you help students take a closer look at the information in an image?

Comments (3)


  2. when you observe one photo or picture or image ,pleasecare fully it is not only picture every images or photo or picture have many thinks that they are hiden in photo
    they show humanities of thinking in around the time

  3. New World full of opportunities…then and now…It is a sign of Progress

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *