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Philadelphia Department of Records Wins Award of Merit from AASLH

We're excited to announce that the Philadelphia Department of Records has been awarded a 2011 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for the work on!

Now in its 66th year, the Leadership in History Awards from AASLH are awarded annually for projects that demonstrate excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history. The awards were presented at a banquet held on September 16 as part of the 2011 AASLH Annual Meeting in Richmond, Virginia.

We are delighted to receive this award and appreciative of the recognition from AASLH. The photographs and maps on enable users to discover more about the history of Philadelphia and its many neighborhoods and communities. We hope that it provides people with an opportunity to remember and explore our city's past in a fun, innovative, and meaningful way.

Thank you to all the users for supporting the project, and thank you to the American Association for State and Local History for this prestigious award!


Total maps and photos scanned and available online

Unique Visitors from January to August 2011

The Philadelphia City Archive is one of the country's largest municipal archives, with an estimated 2 million photographs that date from the late 1800’s. These gorgeous pictures paint a stunning portrait of Philadelphia and its industry, architecture, culture and people.

Staff Favorites

The people who work on spend a lot of time looking at beautiful images. Here are a few photos that have caught our attention recently.

Carissa: "It Takes Cooperation," 1932

Deb: Parkway at Callowhill Street - West from 21st Street, 1909 or Frankford Elevated, 1916

Timothy: Chief Ball Tolling Liberty Bell - Independence Hall, 1915 or Delaware Avenue - Race Street Pier - General View, 1901 or Celebration - Model Mile, 1929

Brian: Freedom Pageant - Participant, 1926

Sara: Night Lights on Market Street, 1959 or Fire Demonstration at Northwest Incinerator, 1960 or Paul Revere School, 1933


Do you have something to say about Let us know at or go to and tell the world!

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So Many Good Reasons to Read the PhillyHistory Blog

After five years of blogging, we're giving the PhillyHistory Blog a bit of a renovation. Begun in May 2006, the blog features articles from the PhillyHistory team and guest bloggers on the stories behind the photographs - stories that provide insight into the people, places, and events of Philadelphia's past.

Over the past few months, we've made several exciting changes to the blog - changes that will continue throughout the fall. We'll post more frequently, write about additional topics, feature new contributors, and add several more options. We've also launched two new series: Snapshots of History and Behind the Scenes.

Snapshots of History focuses on some of the more unique images on Certain photos just seem to beg for additional details, and we'll provide some of those details via Snapshots of History. Check out the first entry in the series - Kill the Rats!

Behind the Scenes shows readers some of the work that goes into caring for and digitizing historic photographs. It complements our Behind the Scenes page and hopefully will answer some questions you've had about how the team works. Check out the first entry in the series - Oh Where Can This Be?: Photos Without a Location.

We're also pleased to announce that Ken Finkel will be joining us as a weekly contributor to the PhillyHistory Blog. Before joining Temple University in 2008 as Distinguished Lecturer in American Studies, Ken held several positions in Philadelphia's cultural and media organizations. He previously blogged at Brownstoner Philadelphia and The Sixth Square at WHYY. Every Thursday, Ken will be weighing in on a variety of Philadelphia topics, past and present. You can read his introductory article, "Travels in the Unpretentious City," and other essays on the PhillyHistory Blog. You can also follow Ken on Twitter at @kenfinkel. We hope you enjoy his wonderful articles!

Other new features on the blog include:

Commenting: Have something to say about an entry? Leave a comment and let us know.

Sharing: Each entry now includes an option to share it with others via Facebook, Twitter, email, or other social networking sites. Help spread the word about the amazing history of Philadelphia! Blog on Kindle: The blog is also available for Kindle via a subscription from Amazon. Download the blog to your Kindle and always have historically interesting reading material at your fingertips.

Lastly, we have a question for you. We've heard time and time again how rich and interesting the PhillyHistory blog is. If we were to turn it into a small book, would you be interested in purchasing a copy for yourself, colleagues or loved ones? Let us know at

The blog can be accessed at Have an idea for a blog entry or know of a photo we should feature in Snapshots of History? Let us know at Experiments with Augmented Reality Technology

In early 2011, the team had the exciting task of experimenting with mobile augmented reality technology. The Philadelphia Department of Records had been awarded a Digital Humanities Start-Up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities to investigate the use of augmented reality with historic photographs. Could we use this very new form of technology to create another method for viewing very old images?

But, first, what in the world is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (also known as AR) has many definitions, but we were thinking of it as the overlaying of digital data or computer generated imagery on a real-time view of the physical world. In the case of our research, we investigated the possibility of overlaying historic images on a view of the current landscape as seen through the camera feature of a smart phone such as an iPhone or Android device. Basically, a person would be able to look through their phone and view icons indicating a historic image was originally taken at that location. By clicking on the icon, the person could view the historic image as an overlay on their view of the current landscape. Ideally, the person would then be able to compare the past and the present and see how the location had changed.

To create such an application, we used augmented reality technology provided by a company called Layar and the geographic information (the location where the photo was taken) that is tracked in We also consulted with local historians including the editors of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia who provided us with additional text to accompany twenty select images.

Augmented reality is still a relatively new technology and much of our grant work focused on research and how AR could be used with historic images. A prototype AR application featuring PhillyHistory images was available for a test period during this past summer, but perhaps more importantly, we released a whitepaper summarizing our research that is available online via a free download.

The PhillyHistory team was excited to participate in such innovative research, and we hope that our findings will prove useful to other cultural organizations.

New Features and Products in the PhillyHistory Store

A view from City Hall in 1918 can be purchased as a print or photo gift.

With everything from William Penn's statue to the Fairmount Water Works to the construction of the Frankford Elevated, there are thousands of images on that can demonstrate your love of Philadelphia and its history. These images make great decorations for your home or office or the perfect gift for someone who loves our City!

We're happy that there are now even more ways to take PhillyHistory home with you. In addition to smaller print sizes, the images can be purchased in larger sizes such as 40 or 50 inch prints. We've also added a series of canvas print options as an alternative to the paper prints. Want to customize your print? A new custom cropping feature lets you drag and crop the image to show just the portion that you wish to have printed. This feature is available for select print sizes and types.

Your purchases on help maintain the PhillyHistory project and the work of the City of Philadelphia. Thank you for your ongoing support!

We're on Twitter!

The team is now on Twitter! A microblogging site, Twitter lets users post short messages no longer than 140 characters. Many libraries, archives, and museums can be found on Twitter "tweeting" about the activities happening at their institutions. We're hoping to use Twitter as a way to provide you with glimpses into the behind the scenes world of We'll be posting a regular PhillyHistory Photo of the Day as well as linking to interesting stories and events related to history and photograph projects in Philadelphia. Follow us and let us know what you think about the historic images!

The account on Twitter.

If you're on Twitter, you can find us as @phillyhistory. If you don't have a Twitter account, you can still view the posts at!/phillyhistory.

Have a Suggestion?

Do you have an idea for a new feature on Is there a topic you think we should cover in a blog entry? How can we make the site better?

Send us your feedback via the online Feedback button on the PhillyHistory search page or by emailing Thank you for your support of!