John Margolies Roadside America Archive – Library of Congress – Southeast Nebraska Region – 1980 – 1993
From the Library of Congress: The John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive is one of the most comprehensive documentary studies of vernacular commercial structures along main streets, byways, and highways throughout the United States in the twentieth century. Photographed over a span of forty years (1969-2008) by architectural critic and curator John Margolies (1940-2016), the collection consists of 11,710 color slides (35mm film transparencies).
Frequent subjects include restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, motels, signage, miniature golf courses, and beach and mountain vacation resorts. All 48 contiguous states are represented. The Library of Congress began to acquire portions of the archive in 2007, with the bulk of the materials arriving in 2015. These holdings form the core of what Margolies considered the exemplary images of his subject matter.
Margolies’ Roadside America work chronicled a period of American history defined by the automobile and the ease of travel it allowed. Emerging with the prosperity of the post-WWII era, roadside and commercial structures spread with the boom of suburbanization and the expansion of paved roads across the United States. Yet, in many instances, the only remaining record of these buildings is on Margolies’ film, because tourist architecture was endangered by the expansion of the interstate system and changing travel desires.
Margolies’ work was influential in the addition of roadside buildings to the National Register of Historic Places beginning in the late 1970s.