The collection of the Philadelphia City Archives is constantly evolving. Whenever we add new material to our holdings, we always strive to describe it in a way that provides ease of access for our local researchers as well as for those around the world.

Like many archives and museums, we must also adhere to strict policies that govern what we collect, and since we are a government archive, the vast majority of our holdings consist of materials that were either produced or used by the city government.

Not all of our holdings came directly from City offices. New material is sometimes acquired from outside organizations or private donors in possession of city government-related records. Whatever the source, we are always happy to receive new additions to our collection, and with that in mind, we’d like to highlight some of the new material we’ve processed so far this year.

Glass plate negatives from the Philadelphia Water Department

of glass plate negative depicting the Spring Garden Water Works circa 1895

Thanks to the continuing kindness of the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), we greatly expanded our holdings from that department and from its predecessor, Public Works. The transfer included many reports and thousands of glass plate negatives such as this circa 1895 view of the Spring Garden Water Works.

The structure unfortunately no longer exists, but at the time, it was located next to the Promontory Rock Tunnel near what is today known as Kelly Drive. Many of the negatives are quite fragile and require careful handling. Thankfully, PWD had already scanned them before we acquired them. Not only that but the scans are also indexed and available for perusal at our Spring Garden location.

Plans and reports from the City Planning Commission

North Broad Street plan from 2005

What would a city be without plans and reports?  Well, we have thousands of them. They come from a whole host of city offices and cover a wide array of topics, and thanks to the City Planning Commission’s transfer this summer, we have been able to fill in many gaps in our collection.

Not only did we acquire plans and reports from as far back as the 1940s, but we also picked up some newer ones like this North Broad Street plan from 2005.

Sheet music from the city’s first television ad campaign

Philadelphia Get to Know Us sheet music

Who remembers the city’s first television ad campaign and that catchy song, Philadelphia: Get to Know Us? Graced by Patti LaBelle’s voice and first appearing in the summer of 1985, the ad was the culmination of a unified effort by both the city and city-related organizations to increase Philadelphia tourism. We now have sheet music, background information, and audio and visual recordings from that campaign. Look for the ad on YouTube!

Thank you to this past year’s donors:

  • Chestnut Hill Conservancy.
  • Philadelphia Water Department.
  • City Charter Review Commission.
  • City Planning Commission.
  • Philadelphia City Fund.
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • State Archives.

If you think you have something that might be of interest that you’d like to donate, please contact us at