Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on April 6, 2022.
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This small museum in a somewhat hidden tattoo parlor is everything we look for in offbeat exhibits- namely a wonderfully curated selection on a topic we don't know much about managed by extremely passionate Pittsburghers.
So if you want to take a dive into the world of tattoos, this one is for you.
What You Can See at the Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum
The Pittsburgh Tattoo Museum is comprised of roughly six exhibits on the public side of the tattoo parlor and features a rotating selection of items in the collection of artists Nick Ackman and Jill Krznaric (who you'll likely find in the back working on tattoo designs).
For the inaugural displays, we found profiles of tattoo artists from the early 1900s with biographies, historical tattoo drawings (all revolving around traditional American style), early tattooing machinery, and more. These were curated nicely such that you could spend some time reading about a specific tattoo artist, learning how they got into tattoos, get a look at their work, and see other themed memorabilia from the era as well.
Many of these artists are also profiled in books written by Nick Ackman via his independent publishing company, Blue Letter Books. These books are also on display for visitors to look through or purchase a copy of and really rounded out the exhibit nicely to provide a robust look into a subset of tattooing.
If you are lucky and the artists are not busy, you can likely also talk to them a bit about the exhibit, tattooing, and more. I was fortunate enough to catch Nick with a bit of downtime and got to find out more about his interests in tattooing, how his collection came about, his many books, and why having exhibits such as these are so important for retaining the history of the art. Truly, this conversation made the experience all the better as I simply didn't know that much about tattooing to begin with and he was more than happy to fill in the gaps.
Perhaps the biggest revelation from the discussion was that the memorabilia on display is just a small fraction of what Nick has in his collection which I am now hoping will get rotated in and out of the exhibit as time goes on. Pittsburghers sharing their collections with the city always makes for a wonderful exhibit, and this one is no exception.
So while you may not spend much time when visiting the Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum as the space isn't the largest out there, it is worth a quick stop to learn a bit more about the unique art style and get to talk to the artists whose passion for the craft shows everywhere you look- not just on paper but on skin too!
The Pittsburgh Tattoo Art Museum is located at 5413 A Walnut Street in Shadyside. Look for the signs as this one is located in the downstairs tattoo parlor. During my visit, $5 cash donations were requested for visitors.
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