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ArsTechnica just posted these wild posters from the NSA’s security education program. They were released because of the diligence and FOIA request of our friends at the Government Attic where you can see all of the posters.
In February of 2016, the people behind the website Government Attic made an unusual Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency: “A digital/electronic copy of the NSA’s old security posters from the 1950s and 1960s.” It took more than two years, but the NSA finally got around to honoring the request—providing digital images of more than 100 posters from NSA’s Security Education Program, spanning from the agency’s early days in the 1950s up to the 1970s (with some minor redactions, of course).
The posters are a time capsule of Cold War era government secrecy culture, and they use every possible approach in the propaganda and advertising book to hammer home the need for security awareness. Posters from the 1950s heavily played on the threat of the Soviets to life, liberty, and religion—with a heavy emphasis on the role of Christianity in the lives of good, God-fearing Americans of the time. Others focused on patriotism and on the need to protect the American way of life.
But with the cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, things got a little… looser, as pop culture references started to seep into the security propaganda materials—along with occasional warnings about the counter-culture (such as “Don’t Blow Your Clearance on Drugs”). A Saturday Night Fever-themed poster, with an illustration of John Travolta that looks a bit more like a young Mitt Romney, is perhaps the high-water mark of the trend. While perhaps not as iconic as the World War II operational security poster “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships,” the “Security Fever—Catch It” poster is a lost classic.
The Verge reports that NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory commissioned Seattle design firm Invisible Creature for a 2016 “Visions Of The Future” calendar that will be given to NASA staff, scientists, engineers, and government officials. JPL will also release digital copies of each month’s artwork for free. (Watch for them! Get the whole set!) 🙂
For me, one of the quiet perks of working with govinfo has always been posters and graphics. These new ones look great!
- NASA’s new space tourism posters are spellbinding, By Sean O’Kane The Verge (February 8, 2016).
- Propaganda Posters Distributed in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, ca. 1950 – ca. 1965. NARA. Record Group 306: Records of the U.S. Information Agency, 1900 – 2003.
The Publications Division and its predecessor compiled these posters as a central reference source for visual propaganda distributed through the agency’s regional centers in Manila, Beirut, and Mexico City to populations worldwide. Posters were designed to promote U.S. political, cultural, and economic values, to expose alleged Communist falsehoods, threats, and crimes, and to strengthen understanding of and support for U.S. objectives in the Cold War.
Thanks to Engadget which says of the Spacemobile poster:
Back when the US was in a race against Russia to send the first humans out there, NASA actively toured schools to spread word about what it does. That traveling unit of NASA employees is called the Spacemobile, and the image above is one of its posters. Yup, this really was from the golden age of space travel and not part of the agency’s vintage poster project. It was dated February 26th, 1965 to be exact, and it was used during the Spacemobile’s tour of New Zealand, as co-sponsored by the country’s Department of Education.
Most long-time govdocs librarians are fond of government produced posters. They are unique and useful in many ways. (If you’re unfamiliar with government posters, have a look at the Work Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection at the Library of Congress.)
Now NASA has created posters it calls an Exoplanet Travel Series based on the new exoplanets that scientists are discovering using the Kepler telescope. An article in Engadget describes the “trio of beautiful posters by the Exoplanet Travel Bureau.”
All three echo the WPA’s iconic travel prints from the mid-1930s, with classic typefaces and swathes of flat, contrasting color. Given we don’t know exactly what each planet looks like, the designers have taken some creative liberties here — but they should still be more than enough to spark your own imagination and curiosity in the stars.