When Beans Were Bullets, an exhibit of posters from World Wars I and II on display at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), has been extended through September 10, 2010. The exhibit examines the evolution of poster styles, propaganda messages and advertising history during the two time periods.
Viewers will recognize familiar wartime messages about food conservation, rationing and home canning. But today's audience might be surprised by government messaging during World War I encouraging home front populations to eat locally, healthfully and conscientiously in order to put the nation's interest first and contribute to distant war efforts. The exhibit also retraces the advent of modern consumer culture, including the far-reaching influence of both the Advertising Council of World War II and the dawn of the advertising industry in the 1920s and '30s.
Combining the eye of a graphic designer with the research skills of a historian, curator Cory Bernat highlights the dramatic differences in style and content that emerged between the two wars. She displays copies of over seventy posters on fence panels instead of in frames to highlight their mass-produced quality. She uncovered the educational and patriotic gems over the last two years among unprocessed posters within NAL’s Special Collections, where the originals are still held.
The exhibit, located in the Library’s main reading room, is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through September 10.
Bernat researched and created When Beans Were Bullets in collaboration with the National Agricultural Library. She is a designer, curator and public historian living in Washington, DC.
To learn more, view the curator's online version of the exhibit or read an interview with Bernat about her work in the Food & Think blog at Smithsonian Magazine.