Photo exhibit shows evolution of Pitt football


Pitt’s 2013 football season was one of anticipation and hope for the future, especially since the University’s athletic programs recently joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Most eyes were fixated on what was to come in the ACC, but some recognized the importance of the past and how Pitt football reached its present status.

In honor of the new conference and in memory of all past triumphs, a photography exhibit called “Pitt Football: Through the Years” will be open until Friday. The exhibit features a rotating selection of hundreds of pictures, with 15 shown at a time, accompanied by a brief caption that describes the images’ significance in Pitt’s 124-year-long football history.

Miriam Meislik, the media curator of Pitt’s Archives Service Center, said she came up with the basic idea of the exhibit and played a part in the selection and presentation of the photos that are included.

“I wanted to represent the evolution of Pitt football,” Meislik said.

Meislik said she wanted the exhibit to include past coaches and players, as well as other aspects of the football program’s history. For Meislik, the story of Pitt’s football program should include elements beyond action shots of prominent players.

“The band and the panther mascot are very important to the program, so we made sure that they were included in the exhibit, too,” Meislik said.

Visitors can view photographs from events as early as the 19th century — when Pitt was still known as the Western University of Pennsylvania — through the 1999 demolition of Pitt Stadium, which was located where the Petersen Events Center is now.

A few highlights include photos of the 1890 football team, the first team to play an official season; the 1925 construction of Pitt Stadium, and Robert “Bobby” Grier, who was the first Panther to break the color barrier at the 1956 Sugar Bowl.

Edward Galloway, head of archives at Pitt’s Archives Service Center, also contributed to the exhibit’s organization and production.

“There is a finite amount of space on the wall,” Galloway said. “You can go online and find much more information than we could fit, along with a wider selection of pictures.”

This is only the second of what Meislik hopes will be many exhibits shown in Hillman Library.

“Last spring, we focused on Martin Luther King Jr. in honor of the 45th [anniversary] of his assassination, and we were successful, so we decided to try it again,” she said. “The reception for Pitt football was more than we’d hoped for.”

Alexander Andrea, a junior information sciences major, said the exhibit helps students consider, “how far we’ve come and where we are going.” His favorite photo featured Dan Marino, who played for Pitt between 1979 and 1982, talking to the coaches.

“I think that the photos really captured the excitement that everyone was feeling about joining a new conference this year,” Andrea said.

According to Galloway, hundreds of visitors have come to view the exhibit since its unveiling on Sept. 27, 2013.

Another exhibit, based on the history of the Oakland neighborhood, will open at the end of January.

“The reception we got motivates us to create more,” Meislik said. “Hopefully, we will continue to rotate themes every semester for many years to come.”