Cleaning the Fort Pitt Diorama

Fort Pitt diorama after cleaning

The model of Fort Pitt at the Fort Pitt Museum is an original museum fixture dating to the 1960s. The museum commissioned the local Pittsburgh business Holiday Displays to create the model of the fort at a scale of 10 feet to one inch. Introducing visitors to the fort in 1765, the model rests in the museum’s first floor William Pitt Memorial Hall and is a primary point of interest for any visitor.

Like all exhibits at the Fort Pitt Museum, the model requires routine cleaning. First, a staff member removes all mobile pieces – such as barges and docks that reside on the rivers – then a quick sweep with a dust mop takes care of the rivers’ painted, flat surfaces. Cleaning the land and the fort, however, involve a more delicate and tedious process.

Small vacuum attachments remove a year’s worth of dust from the grounds in the model of Fort Pitt. See how the grass, dirt roads, and gardens brighten up after a thorough brush with the miniature tools!

Click on the photos in the photo galleries below to see them larger.

Close up of timber before cleaning.
Close up of timber before cleaning.
Carefully cleaning the timber with a vaccuum brush attachment.
Carefully cleaning the timber with a vacuum brush attachment.
Close up of timber after cleaning.
Close up of timber after cleaning.
The lower town in the diorama before cleaning.
The lower town in the diorama before cleaning.
Cleaning the vegetable garden in the lower town with a vacuum brush attachment.
Cleaning the vegetable garden in the lower town with a vacuum brush attachment.
The lower town in the diorama after cleaning.
The lower town in the diorama after cleaning.
Fort Pitt's flag bastion before cleaning.
Fort Pitt's flag bastion before cleaning.
Fort Pitt's flag bastion after cleaning.
Fort Pitt's flag bastion after cleaning.
A house and garden before cleaning.
A house and garden before cleaning.
A house and garden after cleaning.
A house and garden after cleaning.

Care must be taken when navigating across the model and all of its tiny figures, homes, trees, and gardens.

Jaclyn Sternick, a Fort Pitt Museum staff member, cleaning the Fort Pitt diorama.

A staff member then uses damp Q-Tips to lift dust from the rooftops and drawbridges as well as the tiny soldiers and livestock. All of this meticulous work revitalizes the model’s color for Fort Pitt Museum visitors.

Close-up of using a Q-tip to clean the Fort Pitt Block House roof.
Close-up of using a Q-tip to clean the Fort Pitt Block House roof.
Cleaning soldier figures with a Q-tip.
Cleaning soldier figures with a Q-tip.
The cow pen before cleaning.
The cow pen before cleaning.
Using a Q-tip to clean the cows in the cow pen.
Using a Q-tip to clean the cows in the cow pen.

Jaclyn Sternick is a customer service associate at the Fort Pitt Museum.

2 thoughts on “Cleaning the Fort Pitt Diorama

  1. I have fond memories of coming to the Fort Pitt Museum as a young boy. The models and dioramas were my favorite part of the exhibit. Sadly it seems very few of these are on display. Whatever became of those not on display?

  2. Thank you for your question, Gary.

    Holiday Displays, a Yoest family company based in Pittsburgh’s South Side, made the dioramas you are referring to for the Fort Pitt Museum’s original exhibits. After two floods forced the museum to close its doors in the 70s and 90s, a second floor was added to the museum. At that time, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission operated the site, and some of the dioramas were removed from the exhibits.

    Today, the Fort Pitt Museum has four dioramas by Holiday Displays, and is operated by the Senator John Heinz History Center.

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