The Baron family's Croatian tamburitza band, Braddock, PA, circa 1930.

Everyone is a photographer these days, or thinks they are.

We carry cameras in our pockets to capture a prolific number of images throughout our day. So the question is: With this paradigm shift underway in how we approach picture taking, what does the future hold for our captured images?

The Hillman Photography Initiative at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) hopes to answer just that. Four separate projects, working together, are investigating the boundaries and lifecycle of the images we take.

Conceived three years ago through an out-of-the-box process, unusual in a museum setting, the initiative explores some of the most interesting questions in photography, says Divya Rao Heffley, program manager.

The four projects include live public events, a pop-up reading room in the galleries and two web-based projects that facilitate a public conversation. A fifth project will be launched this fall. (Check out the upcoming event about Andy Warhol’s found computer archives in NEXTpittsburgh’s events this week.)

“Each project works in a evocative and distinct way. Not only is the process completely new and groundbreaking for a museum, but it gets people involved,” she says.

One, in particular, calls upon Pittsburgh people to participate.

A People’s History of Pittsburgh invites all of us to submit pictures and stories of the region from the past and present. Your most treasured photographs–family reunions, former homesteads and a grandmother’s wedding–all will go into the making of one big photo album for the people of Pittsburgh.

“We’re asking people go to their archives and shoeboxes and pull them out,” says Heffley. “ If you’re house is burning down, which photograph would you save?”

A final album will highlight the stories that make people in our region great, she says. Those wishing to participate in the project may scan and send photographs or bring them in person to the museum on one of three scanning days.

The other interactive projects are The Invisible Picture, The Sandbox, This Picture and Orphaned Images (fall of 2014).

The initiative was made possible through the William T. Hillman Foundation, the William T. Hillman Fund for Photography, and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. The process was moderated by Nathan Martin of DeepLocal.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...