In the 1930s, the Great Depression gripped much of America. Jobs and money were scarce resources. President Roosevelt instituted a recovery project known as the "New Deal" in part to restore jobs. The Farm Security Administration (FSA), which later fed into the Office of War Information (OWI), sent professional photographs to document rural and small-town life and the effects of the Great Depression. The majority of these photographs were taken between 1935 and 1944. The FSA assigned photographer Ben Shahn to capture images of small-town life in Ohio in 1938. Shahn's collection of negatives from the town of Plain City, Ohio now reside in the FSA- OWI Photograph Collection in the Library of Congress.

The New Deal in Ohio project utilizes Shahn's photographs as primary evidence of the human experience in small-town Ohio. It strives to examine the impact of the Great Depression and the New Deal on individuals and society in Ohio by using these photographs, re-photographs, interviews, and historical research. The project also looks at the how the federal government responded to the crisis of the Great Depression and the role of the documentary tradition in recording small town and rural life.

The Ohio Humanities Council hopes that this project will generate education, discussion, and evaluation on the impacts of the Great Depression and the New Deal in Ohio by actively engaging the public through oral history interviews, exhibits, and other collaborative projects.

The Ohio Humanities Council developed the New Deal in Ohio project in partnership with the Ohio Historical Society, the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Center for History and New Media, and the Ohio Local History Alliance.