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An Apology for the Exhibit


Scanned drawing of 
three boys pigggy-backing in imitation of the Eiffel Tower.

Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum.

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born," said Cicero, a long time ago, "is to remain always a child."

If you choose to get truly lost in this exhibit, wandering through Pittsburgh past and present, you must remember that its photographs and text, in their totality, describe a Pittsburgh, a reality, which does not, and never did exist. The photographs and text describe a Pittsburgh that exists only in the construct of this compiled, electronic, online exhibit--quite different from the scene out on Forbes Avenue.

As Accurate As Possible.
But please do not misunderstand. Every effort has been made to be as accurate as possible in the presentation of the information. That is why "Notes" and "Further Reading" are parts of each of the neighborhoods--so that interested visitors can track down for themselves the sources of all (or most) of the statements made here, and that is why we invite visitors to email us (padept@carnegielibrary.org) about errors of fact and errors of spelling as well.

Through Hypertext Links.
You will be traveling through some 200 years of Pittsburgh's history, presented in the non-linear manner that hypertext permits--though a somewhat traditional Chronology is also provided. In a sense, everything exists at the same time and in the same place, connected through hypertext links in a way possibly never connected before. For example, an article written in 1909 about Hazelwood and about Stephen Foster playing the piano in Hazelwood is linked to Lawrenceville and to an article written in 1934 about Stephen Foster's stature as an American composer. And then, in the Narrative of the Hill District, the simple word "strength" is linked to a portrait photograph of a demolition worker. In another example of the emotional as well as the informational power of hypertext, the effect of the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 are linked to words from a speech that he delivered on a visit to the University of Pittsburgh in 1966.

Using hypertext markup language (HTML), a Web server, word and image processing software and a Web browser, it has been possible to construct a vision, both objective and subjective, of Pittsburgh in cyberspace.

Promotes, Booms, Boosts.
Without apology, the present exhibit is intended to make Pittsburgh and its neighborhoods feel good about themselves. It is intended also to reflect well upon those institutions which enable such a project. It promotes, booms, boosts Pittsburgh and its people.

Unrealized aspirations, broken dreams, the darker side of human life have not been ignored, but for the most part have been hinted at or offered "For Further Reading." For example, the Pittsburgh newspapers of the 1890s and early twentieth century deal with minority groups in a manner that, by today's standards, is absolutely outrageous. At the turn of the century, even the champions of these groups often expressed themselves in (from today's standpoint) paternalistic and insensitive language. Therefore, an attempt at a measure of cultural sensitivity has been brought to the presentation of material--an attempt to be positive. Neither copyright, nor time, nor the goals of the exhibit permit, at present, a complete, comprehensive and exhaustive database.

The collections of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department cannot help but reflect the society. Thus, in many of the Department's photographs, a woman's role is simply either that of homemaker or creature of fashion.

"Bridging the Urban Landscape" is imperfect and incomplete. However, it is the genius of the current technology, making such an exhibit possible, that the information here presented can be added to, clarified and continually improved in its presentation.

Personal Opinions.
Though it may not seem that way, restraint has been exercised in the kinds of links created. Though the editor of these materials has tried not to intrude too heavily with personal opinions, the mere selection and exclusion of items represent such opinions. In addition, the editor's colleagues urged that some element of the personal would add vitality to the presentation. The editor apologizes if any such flourishes annoy.

"Perfect Summer."
It is genuinely hoped that this exhibit promotes more than nostalgia. In the hammering together of photos and text, it becomes at once obvious that the problems of yesterday are the problems of today and that the issues of yesterday are still the issues of today. It is hoped that "Bridging the Urban Landscape," as it continues to expand and increase in richness, provokes ideas among its visitors for the benefit of the community. It is hoped that amidst these materials of yesterday, given new life on the Web, someone will find their little-expected answer for today. For example, in 1914, with, perhaps, extraordinary pertinence to today, Frances Jenkins Olcott, in The Pittsburgh Survey wrote that "the Library also does a special work among boys' gangs, organizing troublesome street boys into reading clubs." Ms. Olcott then goes on to quote the reformer Jacob Riis:

"It is through the Boys' Club that the street is hardest hit. In the fight for the lad it is the club which knocks out the "gang" and with its own weapon--the weapon of organization."

Are there, in fact, lessons to be learned from Pittsburgh's past?

The intention has been to entertain, to inform and to arouse the curiosity of visitors. It is hoped that these selections from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department collections will amuse, educate and inspire. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, that "self-appointed inspector of snow storms and rain storms," (1)

Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of the green and living tree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance of a well-seasoned tomb,--heard perchance gnawing out now for years, by the astonished family of man, as they sat around the festive board,--may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society's most trivial and hand-selled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last! (2)


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