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  • December 2018
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Pittsburgh: haunted by historical photographs and documentary poetry!!

Have you ever taken a walk down a Pittsburgh street and wondered what wonderful or terrible things may have happened there in years past?  There’s a way to maybe find out.

crazy clown time

Go to Retrographer to see the past overlaid upon the present.  There, over 5,000 historic images of Pittsburgh have been tagged to the locations at which they were taken.  You can see that in 1935, there was a particularly scary Halloween Party  happening in front of the fountain at the Frick Fine Arts building (read: clowns) and that trolley car tracks used to criss-cross Centre Street.  You can check out how bustling East Liberty looked in 1928, and a road crew working in Homewood, around 1910, looking towards some very familiar rowhouses on Hamilton Ave. that I drive past almost every day of my life.

Or maybe you’d like to take a walk and read poems about the streets on which you’re wandering?  Then get yourself over to Public Record, a project done in 2010-11 by Justin Hopper in connection with Encyclopedia Destructica and Deeplocal.

Hopper uses poetry to expose history.  You can download an iPhone app that will show you a map of Pittsburgh and the locations that correspond to the poems, written about what daily life was like in 19th century Pittsburgh.  Or you can download the MP3s for free.

I hope these sites will inspire you to go create your own Pittsburgh-centered creative works.  Find some history there, at the library, or the Heinz History Center Archives, and make it your own. Submit it to the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest. Record it in words, film or music at the Labs.   Find the cutest historical boy from Historic Pittsburgh and send the link to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend.

Happy exploring,

-Tessa, CLP-East Liberty

Fresh Resources for Black History Month

Although I don’t have direct access to the lesson plans of middle- and high-school teachers in Pittsburgh, every February brings students into the library looking for information on African-American history–especially biographical information on famous historical figures.  If you, too, have some research to do in this area, let me suggest some online options to supplement our books and encyclopedias:

The Library of Congress on Flickr

Here we have Cab Calloway, famous Jazz Musician. His photo is part of the Gottleib Jazz Photos set that the LOC has generously uploaded to Flickr.  Most everything (as far as I can tell) from their photostream has no known copyright restrictions, which means you can download the photos and use them in any reports or presentations you might need to do.

Or go over to the photostream of the U.S. National Archives and take a look around.

Interested in World War II and African-American history?  Here’s a photo of an all-black Air Force fighter squadron:

What does the 13th Amendment look like? Here it is:

It says that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

African American Experience

This database will provide you with information for your history research project when the books you need have been checked out (or even if they haven’t).  And you can access it from the comfort of your own home, if you have a home computer.

It is organized by “Era”, starting in the year 500, and going up to the present day.  There’s A LOT of information there, including photos. Dive in. (You can click the words “African American Experience” above to go to where it is on the CLP website).

American Song



Maybe you need some music to make history come alive. In that case, explore American Song, a streaming-music database.  You can listen to some Cab Calloway tunes, or listen to Leadbelly, or Tampa Red accompany Ma Rainey, or All That:

And much more, including liner notes and the ability to send songs to your cell phone.

Library of Congress: American Memory Project

This is where you can hear African-American slaves talk about their lives, read Frederick Douglass’s personal papers, or read a history of breaking the color line in baseball (featuring Jackie Robinson).

There’s lots to explore–that’s what the other 11 months of the year are also for. Don’t stop at February 28th! And if you need help searching, don’t hesitate to ask a librarian.


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