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Carnegie Library releases Iron and Steel Heritage Collection

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Saturday, April 14, 2012, 3:36 p.m.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has opened a digital archive that will let Internet users worldwide view more than a half million pages of historical documents about the city's iron and steel heritage.

The library's Pittsburgh Iron and Steel Heritage Collection -- now online at -- contains more than 500,000 pages, including excerpts from books, newspaper articles, maps, journals, photographs, illustrations and trade catalogs. The pages, preserved with microfilm, date back as far as the 1800s, and give viewers a glimpse into the lives of industry tycoons like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew W. Mellon and Charles M. Schwab.

Library staff members are using Facebook, blogs and other media to spread the word about the new feature, which they have worked on creating for three years. The documents are preserved in microfilm.

"Our hope is that as people come across this stuff, they'll begin to collaborate around it," Ryan Hughes, the library's project manager for IT, said at a news conference on Thursday.

People, Hughes said, can look at the photos, for instance, and say, "I worked there," or identify faces in a photograph.

Putting together this collection has been like exploring a coal mine, says Richard Kaplan, assistant director of the Carnegie Library's main branch in Oakland.

"We came out blackened by years of industrial grit," he said.

The library funded the $1.2 million project by raising $600,000, and receiving a matching National Leadership Demonstration Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.

The Pittsburgh Iron and Steel Heritage Collection honors the city's history as the former heart of North American industry, said Leo Gerard, international president of United Steelworkers. Steel still is a very important material: So many things are made with it, he said. And creating steel creates wealth, which also is important today, Gerard said.

Viewers who see the people in the photographs, and the articles written about them, will gain an appreciation for the steelworkers' hard toil, he says.

"There is no easy job in a steel mill," Gerard said. "To be able to access (the collection) ... is going to send a real strong message about the importance of the steel industry."

The main library is celebrating the new collection on Saturday with Community Day, featuring many activities.

Event highlights

• Screening of documentary "The River Ran Red," 11 a.m. and noon in the director's conference room.

• "Rivers of Steel," about steelworkers' personal experiences, 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the International Poetry Room, 2nd floor.

• Storyteller Alan Irvine tells stories about Joe Magarac, an American folk legend who worked in Pittsburgh's steel industry, 1 and 2 p.m. in the Children's Room.

• A magnets program, children's craft activities and tours of the Oliver Room will be offered all day.


Additional Information:

Community Day

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- Main, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland

412-622-3114 or website

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