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Arts & Entertainment

A merger of great museum minds in Pittsburgh

| Saturday, June 30, 2007

Moving George Westinghouse's memorabilia from Wilmerding to the Strip District will introduce the story of his accomplishments to new generations, George Westinghouse IV said Friday.

The George Westinghouse Museum Foundation recently voted 54-29 to merge with the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip. The museum's collection is housed in The Castle, a five-story building in Wilmerding designed as a Scottish castle that held the executive offices of Westinghouse Air Brake Corp. for nearly a century.

"We're looking for a larger stream of people to view George Westinghouse," his great-grandson said. "The corporation has gone out of business, and there are a lot of people who don't know who George Westinghouse was who go to that museum."

At age 22, George Westinghouse invented the air brake, which used compressed air to stop trains, allowing heavier trains to operate safely. He went on to form some 70 companies over his lifetime.

The history center has approved the merger, but the state Attorney General's Office and possibly an Allegheny County Orphans Court judge have to sign off. Orphans Court hears cases involving estates and wills.

Westinghouse said the museum and history center have discussed the merger for about two years.

If it clears the final hurdles, the center plans to open its Westinghouse exhibit as part of the "Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation" section that will highlight other area inventors and entrepreneurs such as Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie. The exhibit is scheduled to open in October 2008 in conjunction with celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Fort Pitt.

Westinghouse said the rest of his family supports the move.

Andy Masich, president and chief executive officer of the Heinz History Center, said the center will incorporate some of the memorabilia into its Westinghouse exhibit on the fourth floor.

"We have a large Westinghouse collection already," he said.

The center has more than half of the corporate papers, and the museum has the rest, he said.

The merger will help the 16,000-square-foot "Innovation" exhibit because Westinghouse is "the archetypal innovator," Masich said.

"You can't tell that story without Westinghouse," he said.

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