When Dr. John Gabbert Bowman became Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh after World War I, he had a vision of a monument to education. So he built it, creating an astonishingly detailed work of architectural art that was also a fully usable addition to the growing university's classroom space.
The Cathedral of Learning didn't just honor the university?it was a tribute to the city itself. More than two dozen rooms serve as portals into a golden era of the history and heritage of nations ranging from Yugoslavia to Africa's ancient Asante kingdoms. And the collection is still expanding.
The Europe-centric first floor boasts the oldest rooms. Modeled on a Romanian Orthodox monastery, the Romanian Room is equipped with hand-carved chairs and an Orthodox iconostasis, while the stone arches and column bas reliefs of the Irish room symbolize the Gaelic oratories of the 12th century. On the third floor, visitors find the Indian room, boasting dramatic arena seating and a colorful watercolor triptych, and the baroque style of the Ukrainian classroom with vividly carved wood and colorful ceramics traditionally designed to test the willpower of rowdy young students.
Rising six floors above the historic Strip District, the Senator John Heinz History Center's handsome, redbrick exterior houses 275,000 square feet of exhibits and materials devoted to Western Pennsylvania. Long-term exhibits include From Slavery to Freedom, which traces the quest for equality from the antislavery movement to the modern struggles for Civil Rights, using indenture, manumission, and freedom papers from the Allegheny County recorder of deeds as starting points. Pittsburgh: A History of Innovation highlights the land's original inhabitants, the journey of Lewis and Clark, and the modern superhighways, whereas the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum delves into the history and lore of local athletics, from the Steelers? Immaculate Reception to Bill Mazeroski's title-clinching home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series. The museum also hosts nationally renowned traveling exhibits; click to see a list of current exhibits.
Perched in the Steel City's Cultural District downtown and staffed by passionate volunteers, the nonprofit ToonSeum pays homage to the art of the cartoon with rotating exhibits, kids' classes, and hands-on entertainment for all ages. Exhibitions have ranged from collections of original work to special displays honoring artists such as Pennsylvania native, Keith Haring. Contributing to the museum's ongoing educational mission, local cartoonists often donate their own time to teach fun-filled workshops or share the bleak realities of living with a talking cat.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1896, and its reputation was as big as its sound right from the start. Andrew Carnegie was an early backer, and reportedly claimed that it was the best orchestra in the country. More than a century later, the organization still enjoys its status as a nationally renowned organization. And the PSO continues to take pride in its acclaim—perhaps expanding on Carnegie's earlier view, current Music Director Manfred Honeck called the company "one of the world's finest orchestras."
The long-lived PSO makes its home in an equally historic venue. Converted from an opulent movie palace in 1971, when Americans swore off movies in favor of high culture, Heinz Hall proves itself an exceptional music venue. Fine acoustics please ears, while eyes take in glittering chandeliers and glints of gold leaf.
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh delights children with hands-on learning and interactive exhibits that allow kids to interact with real stuff and do things they wouldn't normally do, such as hammer a nail, build a circuit, and ink a silkscreen. The museum welcomes nearly 250,000 visitors annually, encouraging them to explore its interactive permanent-exhibit areas, which include The Studio, Theater, Waterplay, Nursery, Backyard, and MAKESHOP.
MAKESHOP invites young minds and hands to tinker with sewing machines, woodworking, and electronics. Kids craft boats and build fountains in the nearby Waterplay exhibit, and in the Studio they form clay, paint portraits, and create paper from recycled-newspaper pulp. Infants, toddlers, and their families can play in the Nursery, where they build wooden train systems and then roll their trains around, comb colored sand with hand tools atop lighted tables, and ride a seesaw whose motion generates water bubbles.
The museum’s award-winning, three-story center building is screened by a shimmering wind sculpture and connects two historic structures—the Allegheny post office building and the Buhl Building. In 2006, it became a certified green building and was honored by the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2011, the museum was named one of the 10 Best Children’s Museums in the nation by Parents magazine.