Senator John Heinz History Center expanding into former chair warehouse
By Melissa Daniels
Published: Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, 9:40 p.m.
The Senator John Heinz History Center is turning a long-vacant early 20th century chair warehouse on Penn Avenue into a home for its 135-year-old artifact collection and a new source of revenue to augment charitable donations.
The museum has spent nearly two years and $6 million renovating 1221 Penn Ave., the former nine-story brick warehouse of the Marietta Chair Co.
“When they build warehouses like that, it's as strong as Fort Knox,” said Betty Arenth, Heinz's senior vice president. “It can hold the collection we have stored on the upper floors without any problem at all.”
Arenth said staff began moving artifacts in November to the 97-year-old building, dubbed the Museum Support Center, which Heinz History Center bought for $1.35 million in 2011. It was vacant for about a decade.
In February 2013, the center received a $2 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project grant and pledged a $4 million match.
Five of the floors will house the museum's artifact collection, which previously were shipped to storage facilities when not on display. Keeping them on-site means less opportunity for damage, Arenth said, and the museum will save about $70,000 a year in storage fees.
The building has a specially designed, Smithsonian-standard heating and air-conditioning system to control temperature and humidity. The three spare floors will be leased to other museums in the region, Arenth said.
“Over the next 25, 50, 70 years, as our collection grows, we will probably need those floors,” Arenth said.
Elizabeth Merritt, founding director of the Washington-based nonprofit Center for the Future of Museums, an initiative of the American Alliance of Museums, said museums have had revenue streams sputter. Leasing space or running a conservation lab are ways to raise money, Merritt said.
“The economy is changing in fundamental ways, and museums are having to experiment with that,” she said.
For the tax year ending in June 2012, the center received almost $8.9 million in grants and contributions. The previous year, it received nearly $5.6 million, according to the center's tax filings.
Arenth said opening the center to special event rentals has helped generate revenue.
“We've had to become more entrepreneurial,” she said.
One storage floor will be open to the public, starting this fall. Visitors will be able to cross a newly built walkway from the main center to the fourth floor of the Museum Support Center for a “visible storage” exhibit, showcasing unique items from the museum's collection normally not on display, such as antique cars, Civil War-era artifacts and early 1900s police and fire equipment.
“It's not an exhibit that tells a single story; it's just some of the best of our collection,” Arenth said.
Finishing touches are in the works on the first floor. News releases from the museum have indicated a publicly accessible restoration center, though Arenth said an announcement regarding those plans is expected in April.
Contractors are restoring the original hardwood floors and adding lighting. Construction is expected to be finished by March.
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Patients nationwide die waiting as 1 in 5 kidneys rejected by doctors
- Officials identify Chartiers shooting victim as Wilkinsburg man
- Pope Francis inspires incredible optimism
- Film tax credits bill would bump up state budget
- Bethel Park man to receive degree from Pitt he earned 64 years ago
- Castle Shannon man accused of crashing way down Pittsburgh street
- 1 dead, 1 wounded in shooting at Chartiers party
- Newsmaker: Rosalind Ross
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Bullied South Fayette student’s case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying