Vintage PGH Throws It Back with Archival Instagram Account

Past meets the present // we chatted with the Pitt grad behind @vintagepgh to celebrate the ultimate Pittsburgh throwback Instagram account.

by Amanda Reed
September 11, 2020

Editor’s Note: this story was published in May 2020. Since then, VintagePitt has rebranded to @vintagepgh on Instagram. We’ve updated our story to reflect this change.

For Felix Strater, every day is #ThrowbackThursday.

The 2019 Pitt grad runs @vintagepgh, an Instagram account boasting 11,000 followers dedicated to old photos of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh.

“It just started picking up and picking up and it never stopped. And it amazes me still,” he says.

How @vintagepgh Got Started

Strater started the account in July 2018 after noticing a lack of historical material of Pitt’s campus on Instagram, inspired by Pitt’s most inspiring building, the Cathedral of Learning.

“I was just scrolling Instagram and I saw an old picture of campus, of the Cathedral, and I thought it was really cool,” he says. “So I looked around to see if there were any Instagram accounts for that stuff, and there wasn’t. So I decided maybe it’d be cool if I started my own.”

Going through the Pitt Digital Archives

Strater finds 90 percent of his Instagram photos from Pitt’s digital archives, which provides plenty of source material for him to choose from.

“I can just spend like hours going through there. There’s thousands and thousands of pictures,” he says.

However, he also looks to Twitter and Pinterest for inspiration — giving credit where credit is due, of course.

On Instagram, he fills his feed with local news stations and media companies, and University accounts.

His process is simple. He’ll spend a “bunch of” hours per week going through archival material and narrowing down what photos he’ll use. He posts at least two to three times a week, and uses plenty of Pittsburgh hashtags like #steelcitygrammers and #412 to get new eyes — and potential followers — to the account.

“I’m not just posting anything. It’s all stuff that I find interesting,” he says.

Scaling Up to a Career in Digital Marketing

@vintagepgh has led Strater to success off of Instagram. He works in digital marketing, and the account’s popularity has helped him work with larger social media clients at his job.

“I get to use my experience there, so it’s been really helpful,” he says.

More recently, Strater has started selling @vintagepgh merchandise, including tee shirts, stickers, buttons and prints.

Although his followers are mostly college-aged students, Pitt alums also count themselves as fans.

“I get a lot of messages and comments from people that went to Pitt over the decades or lived here their whole life,” he says. “They tell me all their stories, and it’s really cool to hear from the kids that go here now and parents that went here back in the 80s and 90s.”

H2P: Apart, but Together

And, for Pitt students who had to go home due to COVID-19, the account fills the Panther-shaped hole in their heart.

“I still get a lot of comments from people saying, ‘Oh, I miss this,’’’ he says.

Local legends like Rick Sebak and large Pitt-affiliated accounts like @pittadmissions follow the account, along with other high-profile followers.

“One of Wiz Khalifa’s friends who has a couple million followers follows me,” he says.

Strater — who still lives in Oakland — says the account has taught him that Pitt and the neighborhood has paradoxically stayed the same and changed immensely.

“It’s just the little things that have changed over time,” he says.

Amanda Reed is a Pittsburgh-based journalist who mostly makes dumb jokes on Twitter @reedkat_ . Her work has appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh City Paper, the Riveter Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings and the Pittsburgh Current. She proudly owns multiple faux fur coats and really loves opossums.

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