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July 2014

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Washington DC's National Archives Inspire Faculty Research

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Washington’s National Archives, home to the Declaration of Independence, has served as the research base for faculty member John Ott these past six weeks where he is studying murals in public buildings inspired by the New Deal (1933-1936) and its continuing federal art programs. These large-scale paintings are one source that Dr. Ott is using to explore the visual cultures of racial integration in 20th-century America, the focus of his current book project. William Gropper’s “Construction of a Dam” (1939,) with workers painted in heroic poses laboring in unison to complete a great public project, is featured in Dr. Ott's study. Gropper's mural was designed for and originally installed in Washington’s Department of the Interior building. Downtown Harrisonburg’s own mural by William Calfee (1941), “Country Fair, Trading, Courthouse Square,” surviving in the lobby of the city's 1940 Federal Court House and Post Office building, is also a subject of his study. Professor Ott was awarded a Professional Development Grant from the University's College of Visual and Performing Arts in support of his research and writing this summer.

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