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Meet the National Parks’ ‘Ranger of the Lost Art’

The New York Times – Doug Leen has made it his life’s work to discover, restore and reproduce W.P.A. renderings of America’s threatened public lands. “Hundreds of thousands of sweaty, athleisure-clad national park visitors have entered the park gift shop after a hike and immediately gravitated toward one particular display: the vintage-looking magnets, postcards and posters with the park’s name in blocky lettering, its best-known vista or features rendered in simple contours and pastels. The style, which has become shorthand for old-school travel posters, can be traced back to one series of 14 posters, created for 13 parks and monuments in the 1930s and ’40s by Works Progress Administration artists. But those original designs were almost completely lost to time and neglect. Most of the credit for their survival lies with a bespectacled, retired backcountry dentist named Doug Leen who homesteads on an island in southeast Alaska. (“I should probably get going, my tide’s just about in,” he said at the end of one interview, hanging up to pilot his boat into town for some errands.) Mr. Leen, 74, has made it his life’s work to track down as many of the original W.P.A. national park posters as he can, after they were scattered across the country for 70 years with few records…”

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