Sunday, September 27, 2009

LIFE magazine archives now searchable with Google Books

Not only was there life before television, before television -- and well into the TV era -- there was LIFE, the magazine.

With great photographers and weekly deadlines, it made a visual record of the 20th century, from Vol. 1, No. 1, Nov 23, 1936 (96 pages of text and pictures, mostly pictures).

Now it's all online and searchable with Google, up to the last of the regular weekly editions, Dec. 29, 1972's "The Year in Pictures" issue. You can select by date and cover or search by keyword.

Try it: LIFE - Google Books

Click "Search all issues" in the left column, or "Browse all issues" to flip through those memorable covers.

Search for photographers: Margaret Bourke-White shot the first cover; or try Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson or any other famous photojournalist whose name you remember. They're probably there.

Search for 20th century events -- wars, elections, outbreaks of peace...

Search for celebrities. Life liked initials: FDR, JFK, LBJ, MLK. For some, first names will do: Elvis (it'll find Presley, not Costello), Marilyn, Liz, Liza, Judy, Satchmo. Or try Hepburn (for both Audrey and Katharine in one click), Sinatra, Crosby, the Beatles, or Woodstock (add 1969 to narrow the search, or just go to the special edition).

If you haven't used Google's magazine search, that's probably because it's hidden in the "book search" section. For the ability to search by date as well as keywords and magazine titles:
  • Go to:
  • Click "Magazines" on the "Content" line.
  • Put a magazine title in the "Title" field (even though it says "Return books with the title...")
  • Enter your keywords and dates.
  • And, if you're like me, say goodbye to a Sunday afternoon.
From Google's front blurb for LIFE:
"LIFE Magazine is the treasured photographic magazine which chronicled the 20th Century. It now lives on at, the largest, most amazing collection of professional photography on the internet. Users can browse, search and view photos of today’s people and events. They have free access to share, print and post images for personal use."
Meanwhile, if you're looking for something NEW in the world of magazines, read this post by Rex Hammock: That Strange Light you’re seeing is the future of magazines -- and add both Rex and Derek Powazek to your blogger-bookmark list.