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Beaver County heritage museum to catalog Michael Baker Corp. photos, film

| Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Allegheny County-based Michael Baker Corp. employs 3,200 workers in more than 90 offices in the United States, but the 74-year-old engineering company still has strong ties to its roots in neighboring Beaver County.

So it made sense for Baker to entrust the Beaver Area Heritage Museum with the company's historic photos, documents and other materials to catalog and digitize.

Included are thousands of photos, negatives and 35mm slides; 8mm and 16mm films on reels; microfiche; and publications. The museum — based in the former train station in Beaver undergoing renovation — will receive some personal effects of Michael Baker Jr., the Beaver resident who founded the company in 1940.

“Our plan is to digitize everything into an electronic archive that can be transferred back to Baker, but also (used) as a research tool for students,” said Mark Miner, chairman of the museum's board of trustees and a former Baker employee.

Baker Jr. founded the company in Rochester. Baker was headquartered in Brighton from 1972 to 1992 before relocating to Moon.

Baker family members were among the earliest settlers in Beaver County, Miner said. The Penn State Beaver campus is home to the Michael Baker Science and Engineering Building; Baker graduated from Penn State with an engineering degree in 1936.

Baker was a trustee of Geneva College in Beaver Falls and the Beaver County Housing Authority, and a member of the former Brighton Township school board before his death in 1977, the company's website states.

His company played a major role in the development of projects globally, including:

• The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which was the largest privately funded venture in history upon its completion in 1977. It required $7.7 billion to design and build.

• The 135-mile Khmer-American Friendship Highway in Cambodia, which was finished in 1956. It was engineered and built in 42 months.

• Pittsburgh International Airport's Midfield Terminal Complex, for which the company provided program management, design and engineering services.

The archival project is meant to preserve the legacy of the company — which still has an office in Brighton — and help prepare for its 75th anniversary in 2015, said Mark Miller, spokesman for Baker. It will develop a Web-based research tool, he said.

The Baker company was publicly traded from 1968 until October, when it was acquired for $397 million by McLean, Va.-based Integrated Mission Solutions LLC, which is owned by DC Capital Partners LLC, a private investment firm in Alexandria, Va. IMS changed its name to Michael Baker International, a privately held company.

The Beaver Area Heritage Museum hopes to secure money to license the computer software that will be used to catalog the Baker archives, and is recruiting about 20 Baker retirees to help with the work, Miner said.

“It's going to be a long-term project. … It certainly will not be done in a month or two,” Miner said.

DC Capital has committed to helping to preserve Baker's legacy, and that might include financial support for the archival project, Miller said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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