Pitt Lecture Series Offers Snapshot of Pittsburgh’s Photographic History

Issue Date: 
January 20, 2009


Documenting Pittsburgh’s history in photographs means getting behind the iconic panorama from Mt. Washington and looking more closely at the innumerable portraits of the people who lived in its neighborhoods, the structures built and razed, and the industries that thrived and faltered. The Publishing Pittsburgh Pictures series is presenting several authors of illustrated works about Pittsburgh to discuss the trials and rewards of exploring the city’s visual past.

The series is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences (iSchool) and the student chapter of the Society of American Archivists. All lectures begin at 11 a.m. in Room 501 of the Information Sciences Building. An informal 10:30 a.m. coffee session with the speaker precedes each event.

Among the topics to be addressed by the speakers are the challenges of locating suitable images, assembling text, negotiating permissions and other intellectual property issues, and identifying and working with a publisher.

Linda Benedict-Jones, photography curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art, began the series on Jan. 16 with a talk about  creating the exhibition catalog for the museum’s 1997 exhibition Pittsburgh Revealed: Photographs Since 1850. The exhibition was the first to consider photography in Pittsburgh from the medium’s beginnings to the present.

Lecture dates and brief biographies of future speakers follow.

Fri., Jan. 30

Ron Baraff and Tiffani Emig from the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Homestead will talk about Rivers of Steel’s Seeing Pittsburgh project. Rivers of Steel gave 44 Pittsburghers from 11 neighborhoods cameras to capture the daily sights and stories of their neighborhoods in an attempt to define their communities. Seeing Pittsburgh depicts industrial and postindustrial neighborhoods, early “suburbs within the city,” and white-collar and working-class suburbs as seen by a diverse group of volunteer photographers. The results form the basis of the Seeing Pittsburgh exhibition on display through Jan. 31 at Rivers of Steel, 623 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead, and the exhibition’s accompanying book. Exhibition curators Baraff and Emig will explore the project’s evolution from an idea to a finished product, including building community partnerships, collecting oral histories, and making editorial decisions.

Wed., Feb. 25

Martin Aurand, architecture librarian at Carnegie Mellon University and archivist of the school’s Architecture Archives, will speak about the writing and publication of his book The Spectator and the Topographical City (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006). His book explores Pittsburgh’s buildings in relation to local topography and how the natural environment influenced architecture and resulted in a city with globally unique structural and environmental features. Aurand will discuss his inspiration and intention for the book, including conceptual and logistical issues related to working with a complex text and a large number of illustrations. He also will describe how an author and publisher balance text and illustrations so that the illustrations complement the text. Aurand is the author of scholarly reviews and articles and another book, The Progressive Architecture of Frederick G. Scheibler, Jr. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994).

Wed., March 18

Miriam Meislik will discuss the process of compiling her book, Historic Photos of Pittsburgh, (Turner Publishing, 2008), which traces the city’s development through the everyday activity in workplaces, homes, and streets. Meislik is archivist and photo curator for Pitt’s Archives Service Center, part of the University Library System, and a lecturer in the iSchool’s Archives, Preservation, and Records Management Program. Meislik has been working in the archives profession for 16 years and specializes in archiving and preserving photographic, film, video, audio, and digital materials.

More information about the series is available on the iSchool Web site at www.ischool.pitt.edu/pghpics/.