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The Frank & Sylvia Heritage Discovery Center is also home to the new Iron & Steel Gallery! This spectacular three-story gallery evokes a steel mill environment. Admission to the gallery is included in your ticket to the Heritage Discovery Center.
|Iron & Steel Gallery|
The Johnstown Area Heritage Association opened a new part of the Heritage Discovery Center, The Iron & Steel Gallery, and premiered the centerpiece of the exhibit, "The Mystery of Steel," in June 2009. The gallery is part of the renovations to the Heritage Discovery Center in preparation for the Johnstown Children's Museum, which also opened in June 2009.
In February 2015, a new temporary exhibition, "A Steelworker's Story," opened in the gallery. Guest curator Tom Leslie, who worked in the mill from 1974-1992, collected the items in the exhibition, which include signs, product samples, and personal effects such as safety glasses and lunchboxes. The artifacts document all four divisions of the Bethlehem Steel Johnstown Plant -- Franklin Works, Gautier Division, Lower Cambria Works, and Rod & Wire Mill. The Conemaugh & Black Lick Railroad division is also included.
"The Mystery of Steel" is shown in a theater (seen at left) at the bottom of the 3-story gallery. It is a film that documents Johnstown's role in the early steel industry. It includes historic photographs, re-enactments and spectacular high-definition footage JAHA commissioned Charles Guggenheim to shoot in the local Bethlehem Steel mills before their 1992 closing. The theater is equipped with strategically-placed infrared heaters and low-resolution speakers, so that visitors will feel the heat and rumble of a working steel mill as they view the film.
Permanent seating for the theater was installed in January 2010 -- pews from the now-closed St. Joseph's Catholic Church of Johnstown, which was located on Railroad Street, by the Gautier mills.
The film focuses on the period of 1854-1880, and tells the story of some of the key technological innovations developed in Johnstown. David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Johnstown Flood wrote, "There is no question about the importance of the old Cambria Iron Works. The age of steel in America can fairly be said to have begun there."
The current exhibit in the Iron & Steel Gallery is "Steel: Made In Pennsylvania," a photography exhibit by State Museum of Pennsylvania photographer Donald Giles. Giles photographed active and abandoned steel mills across the state.
Before the exhibit was installed at the Frank & Sylvia Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center, JAHA retained Giles to photograph remaining steel operations in Johnstown, including Gautier Steel (right and above left) and Johnstown Wire Technologies (below left). Support from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies made this possible.
"In the process of viewing this stunning exhibit, fortunate Pennsylvanians are likely to look at their steel heritage from new vantage points, and to learn much about themselves and the state they - and Big Steel - call home," wrote Jeffrey A. Davis, associate editor of Pennsylvania History, in an exhibit review.