Political Interests of the Former Steel Industry


Political Interests of the Former Steel Industry

Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area - Fall 2017

My experience working with the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (RoS) has shown me new ways in which an organization focused on exhibitions and preservation connects with the history of the area it represents. Having been born and raised in Pittsburgh, I’ve enjoyed seeing its history up close and presented in unique ways.

The project that I have been working on and will likely finish even after this semester is the creation of a new exhibition for the travelling ‘Steel Case’. The ‘Steel Case’ is currently exhibited at the ‘Indiana University of Pennsylvania’ and focuses on how the steel industry was presented in popular culture. My task was to design a new theme, pick a location for it to be presented, and create promotional material.

The first portion of my time there, which ended up being a majority of my time, was going through the archives and learning what objects and exhibition materials RoS had with the goal of developing a focus for the ‘Steel Case’. This was definitely the hardest portion of the internship, but also the most fun. I went in with a rough theme already in mind, which was to look at some of the science that influenced the industry and how this was presented to industry heads and workers. Yet, as I spent more and more time within the archives I kept straying away from this idea while going off into tangents about labor strikes, propaganda, and many other parts of the 20th century steel industry. I eventually decided on a focus that highlighted the development of political ideals during the steel industry, specifically the rise of socialism and the associated propaganda that sought to weaken either capitalism or socialism. Some items included are articles about labor strikes, socialist newspapers and publications, memos to managers warning of the dangers of socialism to the labor environment, photos of leaders, awards from companies to its employees, illustrations of figureheads, and many more.

Currently I am in the process of pulling these objects from the RoS archives and filling out the proper paperwork while creating some promotional material for the exhibition. I will likely continue the work into next year even after my graduation, as the process has taken much longer than expected and I would like to see the project come to completion. The subject matter is very unique and interesting, and I hope that the way in which I present the information to the public is succinct and eye-pleasing, yet capable of teaching the public about the 20th century politics that influenced the steel industry and America as a whole.

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