Moving Pictures of Planning History: Education Online

<p>Constantly updated, the internet has created an important tool for accessing up-to date information—text, still images, and video. Increasingly it also provides a window into aspects of history, including planning history, that have previously been difficult to find. Documents, indexes to archival materials, and the photographic and map collections of historical societies are accessible online. Less well known are film and video resources—resources that can be played online or downloaded. The Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division now boasts an outstanding collection of hundreds of videos relevant to urban issues. </p><p>Some examples illustrate the range: </p>

April 21, 2007, 3:31 PM PDT

By Ann Forsyth


Constantly updated, the internet has created an important tool for accessing up-to date information-text, still images, and video. Increasingly it also provides a window into aspects of history, including planning history, that have previously been difficult to find. Documents, indexes to archival materials, and the photographic and map collections of historical societies are accessible online. Less well known are film and video resources-resources that can be played online or downloaded. The Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division now boasts an outstanding collection of hundreds of videos relevant to urban issues.

Some examples illustrate the range:

• A clip from 1899, 104th Street Curve, New York, Elevated Railway also shows nearby buildings and streets. It is one of a number featuring life in turn of the century New York.

The City (1939), from the American Institute of Planners, with commentary by Lewis Mumford, is part of the large Prelinger Collection that includes many documentaries: http://www.archive.org/details/prelinger. The collection's wonderful tag cloud represents the universe of collection topics including city planning, urban renewal, transportation, and racism: http://www.archive.org/browse.php?field=/metadata/subject&collection=pr….

• Many of the films in the Prelinger collection were produced by industrial associations or in order to advocate a policy. In Community Growth: Crisis and Challenge (1959) the National Association of Home Builders criticizes sprawl and promotes better planning. A Place to Live (1948), a documentary-style drama, vividly illustrates Philadelphia before urban renewal. In We Work Again (1930s), the U.S. government advertises the success of the Work Projects Administration in employing African Americans.

Of course there is more to these collections than planning. Their open source movies range from an animated movies to what is described as, and is, "extremely graphic" archival military footage of Nazi Concentration Camps. (See http://www.archive.org/details/opensource_movies for examples.)

Overall, for planners these collections are rich resources and important windows into the history of cities and regions. Many are are obviously dated--The City features happy mothers doing laundry together with a voice over about the joys of gossip. However, they provide an important resource for helping make planning history more accessible.

Ann Forsyth has recently experimented with putting an educational video online as a downloadable file and a video available via YouTube-the 11-minute Corridor Housing Initiative: Because Place Matters. She was also the principal investigator in a project creating a free image bank of over 30,000 still images related to urban planning and design. Note, it may take a little time to set up one's computer to play the various formats-but persevere.


Ann Forsyth

Trained in planning and architecture, Ann Forsyth is a professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From 2007-2012 she was a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell.

View south along Interstate 45 (North Freeway) from the ramp between westbound Interstate 10 and southbound Interstate 45 in Houston, Harris County, Texas

Houston Apartments To Be Demolished for Freeway Widening

Despite a federal hold on the controversial freeway widening project, the Texas Department of Transportation is pushing ahead with the demolition of an apartment complex in downtown Houston.

July 5, 2022 - Houston Chronicle

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Street in downtown Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish ADU Ordinance Could Ease Housing Crunch

Recently approved revisions to the city’s accessory dwelling unit regulations prioritize long-term rentals to increase housing affordability for local renters.

July 6 - Whitefish Pilot

20 miles per hour speed limit sign in school zone

San Jose Begins Lowering Speed Limits

Thanks to a state bill, California cities can reduce speed limits on city streets by 5 miles per hour to improve traffic safety.

July 6 - San José Spotlight

University of Arizona

Tucson Development Boom Threatens Displacement of Longtime Residents

Median rent in Tucson rose by 30 percent since a year ago, prompting fears of displacement among many residents struggling to afford housing.

July 6 - Phoenix Business Journal

New Case Study Posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.