Discover U.S. National Park Service Posters

In the 1990s, National Park Service (NPS) commissioned Charley Harper, an American Modernist artist, to design 10 posters of wildlife. They wanted the art to capture the diversity of public lands in America; “from the lava flows of Hawaiian Volcanoes . . . to the icebergs of Glacier Bay, Alaska, . . . from the heights of the Rocky Mountains . . . to the depths of the Coral Reef.” Harper, an experienced traveler, drew inspiration from nature and used his unique style of minimal realism.

The poster with Hawaii’s volcanoes shows a typical volcanic eruption that destroys everything in its path but Harper also gives the audience multiple perspectives. Upon closer inspection, the art illustrates how life is created through a destructive force. The archipelago of Hawaii was formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The image of Hawaii that we know of today is a lush, tropical island with volcanoes. The greenery is direct result of volcanic soil which is rich in nutrients. “[The soil] are light and fluffy, low density and have remarkable water-holding capacity.” Another view is that lava is flowing into the ocean thus creating more land. The island of Hawaii, also known as Big Island, is continually growing and providing more habitats for life. Harper’s artistic style maybe minimalistic but is by no means simple.

Can you find multiple perspectives in the Rocky Mountains poster?

Several of the commissioned posters are available for purchase at the GPO Bookstore. The Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) is another GPO resource that can be used to discover Government posters. For example, the University of Iowa digitized Harper’s Glacier Bay poster, and it’s available through the CGP. The CGP can also be used to learn more about the extensive research Federal agencies have conducted about natural wonders in the U.S.

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Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

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About the author: Blogger contributor Vanathy Senthilkumar is a Systems Librarian at GPO.

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