Document Your Environment: Get Involved with Our Newest Student Contest!

Students, do you ever look at the environment around you, and wonder about what it used to look like or what it will look like in the next few decades?  Are you interested in doing something constructive to help raise awareness for environmental issues?  Then we have the perfect contest for you!  The National Archives in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency is asking students aged 13 and up to snap a picture, write a poem, or create a video that is inspired by one of our many Documerica photos and enter it into the Document Your Environment contest on

In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency hired freelance photographers to capture environmental issues and challenges in the United States.   These photographs were created to raise environmental awareness and to document how people lived in the 1970s.   Some of these photos give us a glimpse of shocking environmental conditions at the time:

Burning Discarded Automobile Batteries, Harris County, TX 07/1972 (Marc St. Gil, photographer)


Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water...
Mary Workman holds a jar of undrinkable water that comes from her well, and has filed a damage suit against the Hanna Coal Company. She has to transport water from a well many miles away. Although the coal company owns all the land around her, and many roads are closed, she refuses to sell, Steubenville, OH 10/1973 (Erik Calonius, photographer)


Approaching Logan Airport, Boston, MA 05/1973 (Michael Philip Manheim, photographer)

These photos are just examples of the images captured as part of Documerica.  Today, the National Archives has digitized a made available online over 15,000 of these photos in our online catalog and on Flickr.  Additionally, the EPA has continued the  spirit of Documerica with their project, the State of the Environment.

Students can enter the contest in three different categories:

Graphic Art: This category covers any type of graphic art, including scans of paintings, photos, cartoons, photo mash-ups, etc. All entries must be sent as .jpgs, and high resolution (300 dpi) copies must be available.
Video: This category can include documentary-like videos and more artistic approaches to the contest. All entries must be less than two minutes in length. Videos must be uploaded to YouTube and entered into the contest with a link to the video.
Poetry: Any form of poetry is accepted in this category, but there is a 300 word limit to each entry. Poems must be submitted in either a PDF or Word doc format.

Document Your Environment also includes an exciting panel of judges!  Graphic artist and former Documerica photographer, Michael Philip Manheim, will judge the Graphic Art category; Cokie Roberts, author and news analyst for National Public Radio and ABC News will judge the Video category; and Sandra Alcosser, the first Poet Laureate of Montana and professor of poetry at San Diego State University will judge the poetry category.  A finalist will be chosen for each category in each of the three age groups, and one grand prize winner will chosen by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero.  The grand prize winner will also be awarded $500, courtesy of the Foundation for the National Archives.

The contest is open from November 1 through January 6, 2012, so visit and submit your entry today!


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