This is a guest post from Kristin Britanik, Digital Collections Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh.

This past June, for the first time, the Historic Pittsburgh collaborative contributed data to PA Digital. Through this addition, more than 32,000 objects from the digital collections of over a dozen cultural heritage organizations from the Greater Pittsburgh Area are now more easily discoverable.

The Historic Pittsburgh website was first launched in 1999 with the mission of making a variety of digital collections relating to Pittsburgh and the surrounding region accessible to a diverse range of users to promote education and research. The initiative began as a partnership between University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System who administers the site, and the Detre Library & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center. In 2002, the Carnegie Museum of Art joined as a third partner, and the project received a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) to grow the collection and add new participants. Over the years, the project has expanded to include contributions from many Western Pennsylvania libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and non-profit organizations.

The items shared with PA Digital demonstrate how Historic Pittsburgh illustrates the city’s rich history. Images provide snapshots of the daily lives of the city’s diverse communities. Some highlights include images from the Heinz History Center’s extensive archive of Jewish history in Pittsburgh, photographs of the African American community by famed local photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, and pictures from the campuses of Pittsburgh’s many universities.

Opening of the T Wood St. Terminal, 1984, Point Park University Archives.
Woman sitting on fence rail, Charles "Teenie" Harris, Carnegie Museum of Art.

The resources shared in PA Digital also show the evolution of the city’s ever-changing landscape and built environment. The popular Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection consists of commissioned photographs from the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works, which documents major infrastructure projects, city-owned buildings, general street views, and even city employees from 1901 to 1979.

The Historic Pittsburgh website aims to share many types of digital media so that Pittsburgh’s history can be experienced in new and interesting ways. The first harvest not only contains images, but also includes thousands of full-text searchable books, pamphlets, and newsletters that document the city’s industrialization and the resulting labor movements. There is also a small collection of motion pictures that give users a glimpse of daily life in Pittsburgh during the 1970 and 1980s.

Thanks to contributions from local public libraries and historical societies, the collection goes beyond the city’s limits with resources about areas such as Pittsburgh’s northern suburbs, Oakmont, Pitcairn, and Upper St. Clair.  

Historic Pittsburgh welcomes new partners who are looking to share their collections relating to the Greater Pittsburgh Area and surrounding counties. If your organization is interested in contributing, please contact us for more information on how to participate.

The addition of the Historic Pittsburgh images to PA Digital is the collaborative’s next step in working towards the mission of making Pittsburgh’s history more accessible to a broader audience. Check back as more collections are added with each harvest.

Car Leads the Viaduct Dedication Parade, 1938, Oakmont Carnegie Library.
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