"Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park," Colorado (Vertical Orientation) by Ansel Adams


In 1941 the U.S. National Park Service commissioned noted photographer Ansel Adams (1902-84) to create a photographic mural for the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, DC. The theme was to be nature as exemplified and protected in the national parks and national monuments of the United States. The project was halted because of World War II and never resumed. The holdings of the Still Picture Branch of the U.S. National Archives include 226 photographs taken for this project, most of them signed and captioned by Adams. Photographs of Kings Canyon National Park were taken in 1936, when establishment of the park was being proposed, and added by Adams to the mural project. The single photograph of Yosemite was a gift from Adams to the head of the National Park Service, Horace Albright, in 1933. Shown here is a view of Mesa Verde National Park, which was established by Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to "preserve the works of man," the first national park with this objective. Mesa Verde, Spanish for “green table,” was home to an ancestral pueblo people for over 700 years, from 600 A.D. to 1300 A.D. The park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.

Last updated: September 18, 2015