No matter if you like his characteristic tomato sauce or not, Senator John Heinz (yeah, the ketchup guy…) is one of the most well-known citizens of my hockey home town Pittsburgh. He is also the name giver and patreon of the Senator John Heinz History Center, which is especially illustrating the history of West Pennsylvania. Of course, this one is a place I just love to share with you. As I ran into closing times during a few visits before, I finally made it on the third day of my trip supporting the Penguins in March 2022.
Heinz History Center – Location & Admission
The Heinz History Center, how it is typically briefly named is located Northeast of the city center, right North of Union Station. If you have a central hotel or are in the city center, it is an easy walking distance. Other Central Pittsburgh attractions can be reached easily.
After Covid-19, the museum is back on a normal schedule and is opening daily from 10:00 to 17:00 hrs. I recommend to block at least three hours in your schedule for the visit. Adult admission is 18 USD. The museum is associated to the Smithsonian Institute. The admission also includes entrance to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, with is integrated into the History Center.
Heinz History Center – The Visit
One of the remarkable features of the Heinz History Center is the huge range of different viewpoints from which the Western Pennsylvania history is illustrated. The museum totally features six exhibition floors. The first one features an historic Pittsburgh street car and some other historic vehicles and is likely the floor which you spend least time on. Overall, I would at least recommend to block three hours in your calendar.
I visited the museum from bottom to top, so that one of the first section featured an overview of Pennsylvania history. In later parts, the Heinz History Center is also honoring famous West Pennsylvania inventions and people. Thereby, you have a rather balanced view. Slavery and death by the electric chair is featured in the museum as well as innovative vehicles and breakthrough science innovators.
There are also very interesting topics, which might not be in focus in other museums. For example, I really enjoyed learned about the role of women during World War II. Kidsburgh and the Discovery Place are clearly designed to attract and educate younger visitors.
Everyday Culture and a Huge Storage
Mr Rogers Neighborhood is another really interesting part of your visit. It is focusing on children TV scenes recorded in “the Burgh”. In case you need a mental overkill thereafter, the Visible Storage is just what you expect: it is a storage and the sorted archive of the museum, which presents all kinds of everyday appliances and culture throughout a long time period. That section was one of my favorites – finally, there are any kinds of items including toys, tableware, household items and many more.
Another very memorable part of my visit is an exhibition about 200 years of West Pennsylvania glass production. The masterful craft which lead to the fascinating items in display is leading to a very different touch. You almost feel like visiting an arts museum.
Slavery and War
One of the last sections I visited was From Slavery to Freedom, which gave a very interesting focus on the history of African slaves and their fight for human rights.
A small, but rather interesting section was the exhibition of the British-French-Indian War from 1754 to 1763. I liked this one also as it is (naturally) not that much in focus of European history education.
Last, but not least: Pittsburgh’s Major Brand
This one is also some sort of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania regional history: the Heinz brand also got its showcase in the museum, illustrating how all the tomato empire started to their status today. This section is interesting and entertaining, but – of course – you feel a certain touch of self-marketing as well.
Heinz History Center – Services
Ground floor level features a cafe and a souvenir store, close to the entrance. Especially the souvenir store has some nice memorabilia of “Steel City” – you can also buy a limited volume of Heinz Ketchup merchandise.
Weststern Pennsylvania Sports Museum
I reviewed the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in this separate post:
Heinz History Center – My View
Of course, I majorly encourage you to visit a Pittsburgh Penguins match at the PPG Paints Arena – but on the next morning, the Senator John Heinz History Center is the place to go. The place is massive. Even if you are not interested in all of the exhibition, I almost assure you that you will have a good time.
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