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From post offices to elementary schools to grocery stores, there were few places Americans went in this country during World Wars I and II where they didn’t see a war poster or two.
The posters were no mere decoration. With their striking images and stirring words, war posters were key pieces of propaganda and communication used to promote the war effort among Americans on the home front. They implored people to buy war bonds and maintain their gardens. They reminded citizens of their freedom to use a public library or to provide a safe home for their children. They urged Americans to be vigilant against the threat of spies.
Today, the posters provide valuable insight into what life was like during those wars, and how the U.S. government wanted is citizens to think about what was going on overseas.
At Bangor Public Library, a collection of nearly 800 posters from the World Wars — believed to be among the largest in the country — has sat for decades on its basement shelves. Many are too fragile to be displayed, and the collection had never been cataloged.
But beginning in November, the public will have a virtual view of the collection, as well as the opportunity to purchase full-size reprints, thanks to a digitization project made possible by a partnership with the University of Maine’s Fogler Library, which will host the online collection on its server. The digitization project is underwritten by Fogler Library employee Eugene Daigle and his wife, Barbara, both veterans.
“I hope that in some ways, seeing these posters will allow people to be a little closer to what went on during World War II and maybe think about what goes on now,” says Eugene Daigle, Fogler Library’s manager of network services, whose father served in overseas combat. “There are issues on the home front that people never think of. A lot of people gave up quite a bit and still do. If the poster project can share that, it will be quite worthwhile.”