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Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection, 1901-2002, AIS.1971.05
Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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What's online

The Pittsburgh City Photographer online collection features 14,269 images as commissioned by the Department of Public Works, Division of Photography, City of Pittsburgh for the years 1901-1960. The images selected for the online collection show Pittsburgh parks, recreation facilities, and athletic events as well as hospital exteriors and interiors, mayoral events, traffic situations, and general street scenes.

Do you know where any of these 48 images were taken? If so, please help us identify their location by sending us an email. A street, neighborhood or general vicinity would greatly help us. Thank you!

What's in the entire collection

The collection, held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh, comprises more than 150,000 film negatives, glass plate negatives, and photographic prints spanning the years 1890 through 1994. It is a diverse and thorough representation of neighborhoods, city growth, and cultural diversity.

About Pittsburgh City Photographer

The City Photographers' tasks included, but were not limited to, documenting the construction of roads, bridges, sewers, and other public works projects in the city of Pittsburgh. They were commissioned from various bureaus such as the Health Department, the Bureau of Recreation, the Transit Commission, the Department of Law, the Bureau of Water, the Department of Child Welfare, and the Bureau of Engineering. Few office records exist for the City Photographers, thus the origin and work routine of that position can only be conjectured through the photographs themselves.

The position of City Photographer, as it had been known since its official inception in 1907, was eliminated in the early 1970s, and the office suite used by the photographers on the fifth floor of the City-County Building was turned over to the Mayor's Office. While the Division of Photography under the Department of Public Works ceased to exist, the Department of Supplies still maintains a city photographer in the Public Safety building. Unlike the work done by the previous City Photographer, this position is essentially that of a police department photographer.

The Retrographer Project

Dane Pieri, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University studying design and human-computer interaction, has created the Retrographer Project designed to geotag historical images of Pittsburgh. “Geotagging” adds latitude and longitude data to an historical image so that its geographic location can be identified on a map. The ULS Archives Service Center contributed digitized images from our Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection since it primarily documents the built environment throughout the twentieth century. The collection also includes neighborhood designations making it ideally suited for Dane’s purposes. He plans on expanding the current boundaries of this project (Oakland and Shadyside) to also include adjacent neighborhoods. Retrographer is ready for YOU to start contributing your knowledge of Pittsburgh history!

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