Boston Public Library

Project DOCUMERICA Photographs by Ernst Halberstadt

After the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the agency initiated DOCUMERICA, a nationwide project headed by Gifford D. Hampshire. The goal of DOCUMERICA was to create a foundational visual document representing the state of the environment in the country at the time. To accomplish this mission, Hampshire hired freelance commercial photographers throughout the United States to document their communities. The project resulted in the creation of over 20,000 photographs held by the National Archives and spawned a series of exhibitions that toured the country, popularizing the mission of the EPA.

One of the photographers hired to document the Greater Boston region was Ernst Halberstadt (1910-1987). Halberstadt, born in Germany, worked primarily as a muralist early in his career, serving as an assistant to Diego Rivera in painting the Detroit Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts and teaching fresco painting at the School for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He later turned to photography, serving as a photographer for the Onset Fire Department in addition to pursuing personal work. Halberstadt donated his collection of 35mm slides from the DOCUMERICA project to the Boston Public Library in 1974.

Critical funding to support long-term preservation of and enhanced public access to Boston Public Library collections, including this one, was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library.

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