The Way We Worked

James Green Speaks On "The Experience of Work in the American Industrial Age," Saturday, November 14 at 2 pm. Free

How They Worked 1

James Green writes, "How do you read this photograph of men working as stevedores on the New Orleans waterfront many years ago, before longshore work was mechanized? What do you see in the men’s eyes, in their posture? Photos like this are the subject of my lecture on Nov. 14 at the National Heritage Museum. They yield no obvious answers, but they do offer us a window into the worlds of work Americans inhabited in years past—worlds that have, in a visual sense, vanished from our national landscape. Scenes like this have not, of course, disappeared from the world scene and are common in many places where the work of commerce and trade, buying and selling, and making a living is still hand work, “stoop labor.” Photos of lost worlds of work are, like artifacts from archeology digs, available for interpretation and more: for adding the visual component to telling what was once called “labor’s untold story.” Historians have now written whole new chapters of that story—tales of working lives such photo can bring to life. Combing knowledge that comes from print documents and recorded testimonies with these images can help us interpret the world of work as previous generations of Americans experienced it, and help us see that in some subtle ways that world has not changed as much as it might seem."

Author photo134 James Green, professor of history and labor studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, speaks on "The Experience of Work in the American Industrial Age: What Images Call Us to See and Imagine," Saturday, November 14 at 2 pm. He is also a labor activist and the well-known author of Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, The First Labor Movement and the Bombing That BibMills1 Divided Gilded Age America. The lecture complements The Way We Worked: Photographs from the National Archives” now on view at the Museum. The lecture is free courtesy of the Lowell Institute.


Exhibition Images:

“Banana inspection,” ca. 1910.

Unknown photographer.

Courtesy National Archives

"Bib Mill No. 1, Macon, Ga.," 1909. Lewis Hine.
Courtesy National Archives

"The Way We Worked" Reviewed in The Boston Globe


 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Feeney reviewed the Museum’s new exhibition “The Way We Worked” in today’s edition of The Boston Globe. Here is a link to the review.

Archive photos assure our labor is not lost - The Boston Globe

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Photo caption:
Clover Gap Mine (Harlan County, Ky.)
By Russell Lee, 1946
Courtesy National Archives