Heinz History Center – Learning the History of Pittsburgh

Posted By Jeremy in Explore


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Every city needs a great museum to let its history shine, and in Pittsburgh that museum is the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

Our first observation after entering the Heinz History Center was that it was much like the popular Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC.  But instead of having separate buildings for each theme as in our nation's capital, the Heinz History Center has everything in one building.

Well, as it turns out the museum is in fact affiliated with the Smithsonian, and the legacy of the nation's most popular museum collection shines in every exhibit in this city gem.

History of Pittsburgh Over the Centuries

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

The many exhibits of the Heinz History Center are set up to share the history of the region ranging from the days of the first settlers all the way to the present.

Starting from the beginning with the early fortifications, the revolutionary war, the slave trade and underground railroad, all the way to the industrial revolution and the present, all history of the city, good and bad, is laid out in the museum.

This concept works out well because the museum truly has something for everyone whether you are a history buff, interested in technology and the sciences, pop culture, or even sports.

As we're not in the business of giving everything away when it comes to visiting local museums, we want to highlight a few of our favorite exhibits here and leave the rest for you to enjoy on your visit!

Life Changing Inventions on Display at the Heinz History Center

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

If there is one section of the museum that I would call my favorite, it would be Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation.  This section features all of the global contributions local Pittsburghers have made since the city's founding and includes some of the more well-known (Carnegie steel) to the odd-ball creations that came out of the city (Mr. Yuk stickers, anyone?).

The reason this exhibit ranks as my favorite is because it is oriented chronologically from when the region was first inhabited all the way to present day and does a great job highlighting the contributions locals have given to the world.

For example:

  • Did you know that George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris Wheel, lived in the North Side?
  • Or how about that the Polio Vaccine was discovered at Pitt?
  • Or maybe that the Big Mac was created at a McDonald's franchise just outside the city?
  • What about the fact that public TV broadcasting was revolutionized in the city thanks to Mr. Rogers and others?  (His full set is on display in a different section of the museum, too!)

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

These kinds of global contributions and more are highlighted in this section of the museum, and for science and technology lovers like us you can easily see why it would be our favorite!

Sports, Local Businesses, and More!

Several of the biggest features of the museum are dedicated to, not surprisingly, the businesses and sports teams of our city.

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

On the business front two of Pittsburgh's largest companies, PPG, a glass, coatings, and paint company, as well as Heinz, the condiment company whose founder the museum is named for, receive large exhibits of their own.

The PPG exhibit focuses on all things glass, and the collection takes a very informative look at how glass is made and how different scientific properties are altered in order to produce the gorgeous products we know and love today.

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

The Heinz exhibit, as if we need to elaborate, covers the history of the H.J Heinz Company starting from its days as a horseradish manufacturer all the way to its growth in the early 1900s to one of the largest food and condiment companies in the world.

There is no way that I can truly sell this exhibit without it sounding like a marketing ploy, but somehow the history center did its work to make this exhibit be one of the most interesting in the building.

Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA

On the sports side of the spectrum you can imagine that the City of Champions would be home to a large exhibit, and the two floor sports section of the museum covers the history and science of sports while featuring many unique exhibits from the city's sports scene. Whether you want to watch the Immaculate Reception from the early 70s, measure your vertical jump, or simply learn about the best sports players to ever play in the city, this exhibit delivers on it all.

Overall, the Heinz History Center is a star attraction in Pittsburgh's museum scene and if you are interested in learning the local history of the city from its early days to the present, we highly recommend the visit.

The Heinz History Center is located at 1212 Smallman Street in the Strip District.

For more local museums, check out the Fort Pitt Museum, the Photo Antiquities Museum, and the Roberto Clemente Museum!

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