Scottish-born Andrew Carnegie earned his fortune on Pittsburgh‘s steel industry when it was the steel capital of the world. In 1895, he founded Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which has grown to include Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. “The intention was to give back… he wanted to bring the residents of Pittsburgh the wonder of the world, the wonder of art, and the wonder of science,” says Betsy Momich, Director, Corporate Communications at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. Thanks to Carnegie, Pittsburgh is now considered one of the great cultural centres in the United States.
The initial Carnegie Museums building in Oakland is where the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are currently located. Natural history and art collections have always been on display. “Some were his own, some he began quickly purchasing, some were donated, and by the late 1800s, he was sending scientific crews to the American West where dinosaurs were first being discovered,” says Momich. Within a year of being founded, the museum housed the first survey of contemporary art in the US.
In 1907, an expansion of the facility that included Dinosaur Hall and the Hall of Acrhitecture concluded. “We were one of the first museums in the world to be featuing the genuine skeletal remains of dinosaurs by the early 1900s,” says Momich. The dinosaur exhibition space has since tripled in size, holding the third largest collection of real dinosaur skeletons in the US. The Hall of Architecture houses one of the few life-size architectural casts collections of European architecture still remaining in the world.
In 1991 Carnegie Science Musem opened on the North Shore, across the river from Downtown Pittsburgh. “Beside it is Heinz field, our football stadium, and it’s near PNC Park, our baseball stadium, so the museum is in a prime location for visitors needing access to downtown…,” says Momich. Within Carnegie Science Center is the Buhl Planetarium and an omnimax theater. Connected to the Science Center is “SportsWorks,” 30 hands-on experiences related to the science of sports and modern sports activities, from becoming a human yo-yo to conquering a rock wall.
In 1994, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York partnered with the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh to open The Andy Warhol Museum, also on the North Shore. It’s the largest single artist museum in the US. “The seventh floor covers the history of Warhol, where he came from and where his art career started, and then you move down and learn more about how he became the Pop Art icon that he is today,” says Momich. From the moment visitors step in, they are immersed in the Warhol experience – “the lobby has the look and feel of Warhol’s factory. There’s music playing and a lot of places to sit and have a coffe; or if it’s Friday night they have “good fridays,” a cocktail.
Whether you’re planning to visit all of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, or are simply looking to soak up some culture whilst you’re in town, there’s plenty to discover in Steel City.
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Art, natural history, and science… Which of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh pique your interest?
Written by Marsha S. Morgenstern