Go Behind the Scenes at the Sen. John Heinz History Center

The newest long-term area in the museum offers visitors a snapshot into the preservation of western Pennsylvania history, one artifact at a time.

Photo courtesy of sen. John Heinz History Center


Have you ever wondered what museums do with artifacts that aren’t on display?

As do many other museums, the Sen. John Heinz History Center traditionally has displayed only 15 percent of its collections at one time, while the remaining collections reside in storage, unseen by the public. That is, until museum curators decided to create a Visual Storage area.

Located in the Sigo Falk Collections Center on the fourth floor of the museum, the Visible Storage area offers visitors behind-the-scenes access to more than 1,200 artifacts from the History Center’s collection of more than 1 million items.

photo by chuck beard


Walk across the sky bridge — “Falkway,” as museum President and CEO Andrew Masich refers to it — and into the recently opened LEED gold-certified Museum Conservation Center to find the artifacts on display.

These artifacts, organized by type, range from appliances and housewares to toys and armaments. Each section of the Visible Storage area is equipped with an iPad; click on each item to learn about what it is, when it is from and how the museum acquired it. You also can learn how to preserve some of these items if you have similar ones at home.

Some of the artifacts include more than a dozen western Pennsylvania long rifles, presidential china and glassware used by the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations, as well as longtime KDKA personality John Cigna’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“People are surprised by the quality, depth and range of our collections,” says museum division Director Anne Madarasz.

As the exhibits change throughout the museum and new items are donated, artifacts on display in Visual Storage will rotate and make their way to other areas of the museum.

Visible Storage doesn’t stop there. You also can watch museum professionals at work in three different areas: the conservation lab, the photography studio and the mount-making workshop.


Categories: The 412