Collection Spotlight: the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors Records

Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors Records, 1958-2003, MSS 995

Extent: 19 linear ft. [17 boxes]

History of the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors (PCIV)

The Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors (PCIV), also known as GlobalPittsburgh, is a community-based non-profit organization founded in 1959.  Its mission is to promote cultural, educational, and commercial ties between Western Pennsylvanians and other peoples of the world. The organization works with international visitors to facilitate a smooth transition to life in the Pittsburgh region.

In the decade following WWII, there was a marked growth of government and private programs designed to bring foreign visitors to the United States. By 1959, the year PCIV was established, organizations and community centers for international visitors existed in more than half of the fifty largest cities in the nation.  PCIV developed out of a proposal by the Office of Cultural and Educational Exchange of the University of Pittsburgh (OCEE). The OCEE advocated for the creation of a community organization that would coordinate planned hospitality, visits to industrial and cultural centers, as well as interviews and conferences for Pittsburgh’s international visitors. Such services had been previously lacking in the city.

PCIV participants tour KDKA studio, 1967.

PCIV participants tour KDKA studio, 1967.

An executive committee spearheaded by Shepherd Witman, the OCEE’s director, enlisted support for the organization from business, professional, and academic leaders in Pittsburgh. A professional staff was assembled consisting of an executive director, a program coordinator, a secretary and a volunteer coordinator, and together they recruited volunteers to act as guides, hosts, and office workers. Funding was primarily obtained through PCIV’s board of trustees, which was composed of representatives of business, education, government and civic organizations throughout Pittsburgh. Witman’s wife, Jeanne Witman, served as executive director of PCIV from its inception in 1959 until her retirement in 1971.

PCIV’s first program consisted of sightseeing tours for visitors and students who had been attracted to Pittsburgh by the excitement generated through the city’s first “Renaissance,” an urban renewal project that had been transforming Pittsburgh for over a decade.  Other early efforts focused primarily on short-term visitors, such as foreign leaders, scholars and executives touring selected cities in the U.S. In 1961, PCIV became a member organization of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) and the designated liaison for the IVLP in Western Pennsylvania.

Foreign Wive Program members participate in "What Country is this Article from?" activity, 1968.

Foreign Wive Program members participate in “What Country is this Article from?” activity, 1968.

The number of foreign businessmen, doctors, scholars and students of Pittsburgh area campuses increased rapidly in the 1960s.  The wives of these students and professionals were invited to participate in PCIV’s Overseas Wives Program, which primarily consisted of weekly gatherings for coffee and conversation with each other and with American volunteers. These “Coffee Mornings,” which began in 1967, provided an opportunity for international women from over 90 countries to share in solving problems of settling a family in a foreign country.  While many subjects were discussed at these meetings, the customs of child rearing and of food preparation were particularly popular, and recipes from food tastings were collected in the PCIV International Cookbook.

PCIV participants taking in view of Pittsburgh, c1970s.

PCIV participants taking in view of Pittsburgh, c1970s.

Later programs, such as Business for Russia and Community Connections in the 1990s, matched international professionals with local businesses and organizations for presentations, discussions and tours of local businesses and industrial facilities. In 1998, PCIV published Understanding Pittsburgh: A Guide for International Visitors and Residents, which was intended to serve as an introduction to Pittsburgh by offering information on such topics as renting a house or an apartment, opening a bank account, obtaining medical care, inquiring about visas and resident status, and enrolling children in the local school system.

In 2009, PCIV became GlobalPittsburgh, which is designed to improve the Pittsburgh region’s global competitiveness by promoting the region, attracting international leaders, business executives and students, and introducing them to regional companies, educational institutions, leaders and organizations.

PCIV participants touring United States Capitol, c1990s.

PCIV participants touring United States Capitol, c1990s.

Collection Summary

The Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors Records consist of the administrative records, photographs and audiovisual material of the PCIV.  The administrative records include reports, memos, meeting minutes, newsletters, and correspondence between staff, volunteers, visitors and affiliated organizations. The photographic and audiovisual material consists of photographs, slides, and VHS tapes that document private events between PCIV staff, volunteers and visitors, banquets and award ceremonies, the offices of PCIV, and visitors’ tours of Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s.

Series I. Administrative records, 1958-2003

This series is comprised of administrative records pertaining to PCIV programming and communication between the organization, volunteers, visitors and other organizations affiliated with PCIV, particularly the National Council for International Visitors. The records in this series are primarily memos, reports, newsletters and correspondence to and from PCIV executive directors.

Series II: Program records, 1969-2000

This subseries is comprised of records such as correspondence, memos, reports, historical files, and other organizational information that documents various programs undertaken by PCIV. Featured prominently in this subseries are the following programs: Students for International Awareness (SIA), the Wives’ Program, the Business for Russia Program, the Community Connections Program, the Mid-Winter Community Seminar, and the Jefferson Fellows Mentor Program.

Series III. Awards and Recognition, 1968-2001

This series consists of awards, certificates of appreciation and local government proclamations honoring PCIV and its volunteers.

Series IV. Audiovisual Material, 1990-1999

This series consists of eight VHS tapes featuring award ceremonies, banquets and informational programs for international visitors and students.

Series V. Photographs and Slides, 1969-2001

This series consists of photograph albums, loose photographs, color slides and negatives that document a wide range of PCIV activities, including award ceremonies, banquets, seminars, conferences and PCIV programs.

Series VI. Oversized Material, 1960-2001

This series consists of oversized material relating to PCIV, including two scrapbooks, three enlarged screenshots of the Global Pittsburgh website, several copies of a PCIV poster, and official proclamations from Pittsburgh City Council.

This collection has been made accessible as part of an NHPRC-funded Basic Processing grant.  For more information on the Pittsburgh Council for International Visitors Records, please see the collection’s finding aid.

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