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Senator John Heinz History Center.svg

The Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is the largest history museum in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Named after the late U.S. Senator H. John Heinz III (1938-1991), it is located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.

The Heinz History Center is a 275,000-square-foot (25,500 m2) educational institution "that engages and inspires a diverse audience with links to the past, understanding in the present, and guidance for the future by preserving regional history and presenting the American experience with a Western Pennsylvania connection".


Senator John Heinz History Center

View of the Senator John Heinz History Center from Pittsburgh's Strip District

The History Center features the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum and the Library and Archives, and includes six floors of permanent and changing exhibitions that tell the story of Western Pennsylvania.

Housed in the century-old Chautauqua Lake Ice Company building, the museum is an exhibit in its own right. The History Center also features the following permanent exhibitions:

  • Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation celebrates 250 years of Western Pennsylvania's significant contributions to the world, from Dr. Jonas Salk's discovery of the polio vaccine to the invention of the Big Mac.
  • Senator John Heinz: A Western Pennsylvania Legacy details the life and legacy of one of Pittsburgh's most beloved philanthropists and politicians.
  • Pittsburgh's reign as America's glass city is showcased in Glass: Shattering Notions.
  • Heinz 57 chronicles the history of the H.J. Heinz Company.
  • The Special Collections Gallery houses more than 3,000 artifacts illustrating the rich ethnic history and corporate fabric of the Pittsburgh region.

The museum's history begins in 1879 with the formation of a club called Old Residents of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. In 1884 it changed its name to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania (HSWP) and has been in continuous existence since, making it the Pittsburgh region's oldest cultural organization.

HSWP began the tradition of interpreting public history in 1911, organizing the centennial of steamboat navigation in Pittsburgh, as well as the city's 1955 bicentennial celebration. In the early years, HSWP held meetings in homes and churches, but in 1893, it was granted a space for its archives at the new Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. By 1914, it had its own building nearby, where it remained until its current home in Pittsburgh's Strip District opened in 1996.

Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the History Center

Located in the Smithsonian wing of the Senator John Heinz History Center, the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum spans 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of exhibit space over two floors.

The "museum within a museum" captures the Pittsburgh region's evolution and impact as a sports leader over more than a century, from amateur to pro and across the spectrum of sports.

The Sports Museum captures the unforgettable and almost forgotten tales of Pittsburgh sports through hundreds of artifacts, more than 70 hands-on interactive exhibits, and 20 audio-visual programs.

Select artifacts include Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" shoes; Mario Lemieux's hockey skates; Satchel Paige's baseball glove; the pitching rubber from the 1960 World Series; Billy Conn's gloves and light heavyweight champion belt; Arnold Palmer's sweater and golf bag; Chip Ganassi's 2000 Indy 500-winning race car; the "Ultimate Steelers Fan's Car;" the Homestead women swimmers Olympic medals from the 1920s and 1930s; and hundreds of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cards.

Library & Archives at the History Center

The History Center's Library & Archives is an extensive scholarly resource documenting 250 years of life in Western Pennsylvania. The collection includes books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, atlases, newspapers, films, recordings and other memorabilia.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life

The History Center also operates Meadowcroft Rockshelter, a world-renowned archaeological site south of Pittsburgh near Washington County's Avella community.

The Rockshelter is the oldest site of human inhabitation in North America, with evidence of man living there for nearly 16,000 years. The site was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

Adjacent to the rockshelter is the Museum of Rural Life, a village recreating rural life in the 19th century.


  • Kidney, Walter C. (1997). Pittsburgh's Landmark Architecture: The Historic Buildings of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. ISBN 0-916670-18-X.  

External links

Coordinates: 40°26′48″N 79°59′32″W / 40.4466°N 79.9922°W / 40.4466; -79.9922



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