Uncovering the History of the Local Art and Music Scene

In the stacks of the Detre Library and Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center

Uncovering the History of the Local Art and Music Scene

Museum Studies Intern at the Senator John Heinz History Center – Fall 2019

As an intern at the Detre Library and Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, I had the rewarding opportunity this semester to contribute to preserving the history of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. The Detre Library and Archives has an expansive number of collections from families, businesses, artists, and events from throughout Pittsburgh’s History. My job as an intern was to process a handful of collections. This included organizing and researching the materials in the collections, as well as creating finding aids and catalogue entries for them. Most of the collections I processed involved cultural spaces in Pittsburgh, such as live music venues and art galleries. I felt that my research revealed a lot to me about Pittsburgh’s history and culture, and I found a new appreciation of my community because of my work. 

Delving into aspects of Pittsburgh’s history that I did not know much about was one of my favorite parts of this internship. Two of the collections I processed had material on the Pittsburgh music scene from the 1970s to 2000. Through one collection on a Pittsburgh-based band called The Damaged Pies, I was surprised to find how many unique opportunities there were for local musicians in Pittsburgh during that time. Through another collection, on a live music venue and bar called The Decade, I was introduced to the unique history of live music venues in Pittsburgh and the local and national acts they attracted. I found these materials really intriguing, and I had the opportunity to write a blog post about these collections for the History Center’s website. 

The collection I am currently processing is on the Skinny Building, a 5’6 wide building in Downtown Pittsburgh that was used as an art gallery from 2001 to 2007. In organizing the collection, I was drawn into the material on local artists at the time, and their exhibitions at the Skinny Building. This collection, as well as those involving the music scene, gave me a new appreciation for the relationship between artists and the community in Pittsburgh. I’m grateful I had the opportunity study these materials this semester, and I hope that my work can allow others to understand and admire more aspects of their community as well. 

  • Academic Interns
  • Undergraduate Work
  • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh