You appear to have a browser or browser settings that may interfere with your enjoyment of this site. For more information see the recommended browser page.
Frequently Asked Questions

About the site

Where does PhillyHistory.org get all the photographs on the website?
The City's Archives contain over 2 million photo records that date from the late 1800's. PhillyHistory.org contains a growing collection of those photos. The images come mostly from the Archives, but also from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, who provided more than 4,000 scanned images from the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project based on photos from the Historic Commission. In addition, some present-day images are contributed by city Department of Records photographers.

Is PhillyHistory.org a non-profit?
PhillyHistory.org is run by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Records. As a government organization it does not have 501c3 status. Sales from the photos on PhillyHistory.org go towards the continued maintenance of the site and scanning of the over two million photographs found in the Archives.

Who writes for the PhillyHistory.org blog?
Several of our key bloggers work in the Archives cataloging and scanning photographs. As graduate history students, they are greatly interested in the subjects related to the photographs they come across, and their contributions are well-researched. We also have occasional history professors, archivists, genealogists or historians who contribute as guest bloggers.

Searching

How can I best use the search functions available in PhillyHistory.org?
There are multiple ways to search for assets in PhillyHistory.org. You can search by keyword, pre-determined topic, time period, neighborhood, but most importantly by address, location or intersection. You can also search for assets that have not been or cannot be assigned a location by selecting the Advanced Option "Include records without a location." For a complete description on how to use the search functions click on the "?" icon in the search page of the site.

What is a bookmark?
My Bookmarks is a feature that allows you to save a set of search criteria. If you consistently check for photographs and maps that fall within certain categories or search parameters, it is a great way find those items without having to enter the same search criteria each time.

For example, perhaps you would like to see photographs taken in the neighborhood of South Philadelphia that date from 1950 to 1959. On the Search page on PhillyHistory.org, set those search criteria and then click 'Search'. After the results page has loaded, click on 'My Bookmarks' located above the thumbnail images on the left side. Enter a name for your search (in this case "South Philadelphia 1950s") and then click 'Save'. Whenever you would like to see photographs taken in South Philadelphia in the 1950s, click on that saved bookmark and photographs and maps that match those search criteria will load. As photographs and maps are added to PhillyHistory.org, they will automatically appear as results of your bookmarked search if they fall within those search parameters.

If you would like to know when photographs and maps that fit your bookmark are added to PhillyHistory.org, you can view the most recently added items in a RSS (Real Simple Syndication) format. Click on the orange icon located next to the bookmark to set up the RSS feed.

Why can’t I find photos of my house when I do an address search on my address?
The City of Philadelphia's archived photo collection (a.k.a. the City’s Archives) of an estimated 2 million images is one of the largest in the country. We are working hard each week to add more photographs from the Archives to the website. Your street/address may, at one time, have been photographed, though there is no guarantee that it has been. Additionally, we simply may not have gotten to scanning the collection of images in which your address may be contained.

If you have found data related to your address with no image, you may make an image scan request by clicking on the request for digitization button found in the image record. To access records without images, select the Advanced Option "Include records without a digitized media".

Why is my neighborhood not on your list of searchable neighborhoods?
     --OR--
Why is my address listed in a near-by neighborhood?

There are no official city neighborhood boundaries. Moreover, there are many overlapping names and boundaries for neighborhoods depending on whom you ask. And, to make things more complicated, like street names, neighborhood names have changed over the years as well. Consequently, when we determined the list of neighborhoods available in PhillyHistory.org we:

  • Used a neighborhood map developed by Temple University in the 1990's that gave us about 60 neighborhoods. This list divides the entire city into contiguous 'polygons'. Each polygon has a name (as shown in the list) but what is not shown are the smaller neighborhoods or alternate names that it contains. So for instance, 'Tacony' includes Tacony/Wissinoming.
  • Used a neighborhood map developed at the Police Department in the 1990's. While good, it does not cover several large swatches of the city.
  • Used a relatively general list of neighborhoods.
  • Buffered each neighborhood's search results by several blocks to avoid losing photos that might be on the edge.
Lastly, please note that the neighborhoods on the web site are designed to provide a mechanism for people to find photographs, we are using a version of contemporary boundaries, rather than historic ones as most people will be familiar with the former.

Error reporting

How do I report an error?
If you click on the thumbnail of a photo, you will be taken to a "detail" page where the photograph appears larger and more information about it is listed. If you see an error (e.g. spelling, wrong location, etc.), click on the link "See an error? Submit an Error Report". Your comments will go straight to the person who deals with such reports.

About the photographs

Why are some photos that were obviously taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s listed with a date in the 1950s or 1960s?
Some photographs on PhillyHistory are actually copies of much earlier photographs. Copies of photos may be made for preservation purposes or because multiple copies are needed for different uses. When a copy is made, it is ideal to list both the date of the original as well as the date of the copy in order to prevent confusion. For example, imagine that in 1950 Jim made a copy of a photograph from 1890. In 1960, Sue finds that copy with just the original date of 1890 listed. Sue may think she is holding a 70 year old negative instead of a 10 year old negative. Even if the material and condition of the negative tell her that the negative does not date from 1890, she has no idea when the actual negative was made - a fact that is important to know for preservation purposes.

When we know the date of the original photograph or negative, we try to include it in the information about that photo along with the date the copy was made. If we do not know the original date, we will not guess for fear of inaccuracy. In those cases, we include only the date of the copy and simply state that it was reproduced from an earlier image.

Usage of Photographs

If I want to use an image found on PhillyHistory.org, to whom should I give credit?
Please find the appropriate language on the Linking Standards page. In general, the appropriate credit should be 'PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records'.

How can I put a link to your site on my website?
A step-by-step tutorial for linking from your website to ours can be found under the Linking Standards menu item.

I am doing a research project for school. Can I use the images from PhillyHistory.org in my paper/presentation?
The low-resolution images (72dpi) used for the website work well for the purposes of most documents created in a word processing or presentation software (such as Power Point). You are more than welcome to use the image(s) you find in your assignment. Just right click on the image(s) and save it directly in your document.

Purchasing Photographs

Will my purchased print include a watermark?
Prints purchased through PhillyHistory.org will not be printed with a watermark. Some writing, such as the negative number or date, may be written directly on the original negative and will appear on printed images.

Can I order high-resolution images on a CD-ROM?
Currently, high-resolution images are available on a request-by-request basis, via info@phillyhistory.org. We will create a CD-ROM of your requested images and send it to you. Each high-resolution image is $100. Let us know if you are a non-profit or education institution. These images may not be mass re-produced, shall only be used for the purposes that you have identified and must be given the appropriate line of credit (see Linking Standards). To confirm that you have agreed to these parameters, we will ask you to sign an agreement form.

Do you conduct touch-ups to the scans of older, damaged negatives before you make prints?
All photos in PhillyHistory.org are scans of the original, historic negatives located in the City Archives. There may be scratches, stains or cracks on some of them. As we print each order, we conduct touch-ups to any major damage on the scan of the negative, but do not conduct a complete restoration of the image. You will receive a print of the image as it currently exists in the archives.

My order of photographic prints has arrived and is incorrect.
     --OR--
My order of photographic prints has not arrived after two weeks.
     --OR--
I was charged too much for the number of images I ordered. Who should I contact regarding this issue?

Please contact info@phillyhistory.org with any questions or problems regarding your order.