Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Superheroes, Under Government Contract

Our Government Documents collection on level 1 contains a variety of federal government publications, including agency decisions, research reports, and even a set of citizenship test flash cards. But we definitely don’t have most of the titles in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new Government Comics Collection.

We’ve previously written about online repositories of government films, which covered everything from 1950s nuclear-disaster preparedness to dramatic reenactments of historic Supreme Court trials. The digitized comics (which can be downloaded with a click of any of the book cover images) feature an equally expansive topic list, and some include familiar characters working overtime for the government:
But the real historical gems are the comics without famous characters, like UNESCO’s 1987 cartoon history of apartheid in South Africa, or the U.S. military’s World War II-era Pocket Guides to Australia, New Zealand, and China, which were intended to teach soldiers a bit about the culture, history, and languages of where they were stationed. Although the content and depictions are now outdated and sometimes downright offensive (particularly the Pocket Guide to China, which closes with 10 pages of instruction in discerning a Chinese ally from a Japanese enemy), these comics all provide an interesting perspective on world history, by illustrating the limited types of information which was available to soldiers of the era. (If you'd like to see them up close, the Perkins library has print Pocket Guides to both China and Australia in its Rare Documents collection, but you’ll need to view them in person at the Special Collections Library.)

As the Goodson Blogson prepares for the holiday break (the library will close from Thursday, 12/24 through Sunday, 1/3), one last comic seems especially appropriate. The US Postal Service’s 1987 Working Together…for a Safer Winter! contains injury prevention tips for postal carriers who encounter icy conditions. Given last weekend's snowy weather in North Carolina, the advice in this short brochure might come in handy as our readers brave slippery sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. (For the record, the USPS advises its falling carriers to “relax, and fall as limply as possible! Let your satchel or heavy clothing cushion the impact. Roll as you land, like an acrobatic tumbler…don’t stiff-arm! Fold your arms across your chest.” But it’s more fun with the illustrations.) See you in 2010!