Thursday, January 01, 2015

How We Got Here

Today is the day! The Livemalls blog officially started in January 1, 2005 with a series of photos from the Raleigh, North Carolina area. The first Livemalls post was actually Saks Fifth Avenue at Triangle Town Center. At least, that's how it's labeled. It's kind of confusing because a lot of the early posts were edited and revamped over time. I never saw this as anything beyond a hobby, so I didn't keep notes.

The crazy part about this whole thing was that Livemalls has captured a lot of retail history. A lot of changes happened in the retail industry in a short amount of time. I didn't realize that it would when I started. This was originally just a way to share what I saw.

In any event, as the year goes on, I will attempt to provide some history on the blog and some content to what was posted and why. If you remember any details, please share in the comments.

Retail history used to be an under-studied, somewhat frivolous footnote in general history. To be sure, there were several very written books on the subject, but they were mostly business histories and architectural studies. It was not generally considered a hobby and certainly wasn't something that was considered worthy of casual documentation. 

The Internet changed things. About 15 years ago, the first retail history message boards and websites began appearing. In those days, photos were still kind of rare and discussions were largely about nostalgia. But people from all over the world were connecting and sharing and realizing other people shared the same interests. In the early 2000s, the popularity of digital cameras and photo scanners, along with the increase in Internet speeds and the advent of the weblog came together to create an environment where photos and stories could be shared easily. Retail fan sites began springing up almost immediately. It was in this environment that Livemalls was created. 

Livemalls was one of the first websites with a concentrated focus on documenting retail. Initially focused on current operations in Virginia and North Carolina, the website grew to encompass a variety of historical periods and malls and department stores across America, both "live" and "dead." 

The success of Livemalls spawned countless others, each offering their own equally compelling take on retail history, documentary and fandom. The documentation evolved into art, with a number of creative individuals and groups creating museum-quality photos and exhibits. Today, there is a unprecedented recognition of retail history and a substantial amount of documentation. Part of it can be attributed to the decline of malls and physical retailers, but much of it can be attributed to the mainstreaming of the topic by many individuals and groups working tirelessly to create a record of the retail that was and a conversation on the retail of the present and the future.