Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation

Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation explores the stories of how Western Pennsylvania innovators and their groundbreaking achievements have impacted our society.   

The History Center’s flagship exhibition features rare artifacts, immersive spaces, hands-on activities, touch screen interactives, and audio-visual displays that detail Pittsburgh’s story of ingenuity.  

From the rise of the steel, glass, and steamboat industries to modern advances in medicine, robotics, and technology, the exhibit unravels the process and products of innovators that have shaped this region’s unique history. 

Quiz: Which Pittsburgh innovator are you?

NEW! TECH, MEDS, AND EDS

  • Discover a vial of Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine (signed by Dr. Salk), featured in an updated section with archival images and video
  • Learn about the Freedom House Ambulance Service, a trailblazing agency that trained Black men and women as paramedics to deliver desperately needed emergency medical care to the Hill District, Pittsburgh’s largest African American neighborhood
  • See the white physician’s coat, surgical glasses, and other objects used by Dr. Thomas Starzl, and the team that worked with him. Starzl helped to build the largest organ transplant program in the world at UPMC
  • Check out the “Andy” lunar rover, designed by 50 students at Carnegie Mellon University in 2014, which won Google’s Lunar XPRIZE Milestone Prize in the mobility and imaging subsystem categories. The rover is named for CMU founders Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon
  • Explore objects and images that document the groundbreaking discoveries of two of the seven known viruses that cause cancer by Dr. Yuan Chang and Dr. Patrick S. Moore at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • See one of the first self-driving automobiles tested on Pittsburgh’s streets, an Argo AI car, made by the Ford Motor Company in 2016. 

EXHIBIT MUST-SEES

  • Explore lifelike historical figures, including Queen Aliquippa, Andrew Carnegie, Martin Delany, and Rosie the Riveter.
  • Interact with inventor George Westinghouse and ask him questions about his many achievements, from the invention of the air brake and alternating current, to his rivalry with Thomas Edison
  • Check out a model of the casting process at Fort Pitt Foundry, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, the Strip District-based iron foundry that built the world’s largest cannon. 
  • Step inside Pittsburgh’s premier jazz club, the Crawford Grill, and listen to music from some of history’s most prominent jazz musicians, such as George Benson, Billy Strayhorn, Stanley Turrentine, and Mary Lou Williams. 
  • Listen to recordings that changed the course of history like first commercial radio broadcast by KDKA in 1920
  • See a full-scale model of Elektro, the first voice animated robot, originally built by Westinghouse, along with his trusty dog Sparko!

HISTORY MINUTE

In these KQV Radio History Minutes, History Center President and CEO Andy Masich shares insight into some of the innovations that have come out of Pittsburgh over the last 150 years!

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The oil industry started here in Western Pa. in 1859 when Edwin Drake successfully drilled the first well north of Pittsburgh near Titusville, allowing black gold to flow to a ready market. By the end of the Civil War, the Pennsylvania petroleum industry produced four-and-a-half million barrels of oil a year.
  • Samuel Langley developed standardized time for the railroads while at the Allegheny Observatory.
  • Meriwether Lewis began his journey west from Fort Fayette in August 1803. The epic Lewis & Clark expedition to the Pacific began here in Pittsburgh/
  • On May 30, 1918, representatives of several Slovak and Czech organizations gathered in Pittsburgh to discuss, draft, and sign the Pittsburgh Agreement. Written by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, it represented the first time Slovaks and Czechs issued a public, written document expressing the intention of forming a single common state, Czechoslovakia.
  • When Charles Martin Hall discovered an inexpensive means to produce aluminum, he came to the Mellon family in Pittsburgh for financing.
  • Two of the seven known viruses that cause cancer were discovered by researchers who work here in Pittsburgh. 
  • Chris Atkeson’s work in soft robotics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute provided the inspiration for Baymax, the huggable robot in the Disney film Big Hero 6
  • In 1967, Jim Delligatti created the Big Mac at his Uniontown, Pa. franchise, one of a dozen stores he operated at the time. Introduced nationwide the following year, the Big Mac remains a favorite.

PRESENTING SPONSORS

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History Center: Exhibit Sponsors

Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation is generously supported by:

 

Platinum Sponsors
The Buhl Foundation
Bayer Corporation
Duquesne Light Company
EQT Foundation
Hilda M. Willis Foundaiton
The Heinz Endowments
Magovern Family Foundation
PPG Industries
Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
United States Steel Corporation
Bruce and Barbara Wiegand
Gold Sponsors
Alcoa Foundation
ATI
American Bridge Company
Ansaldo STS
BNY Mellon
The Hillman Foundation
Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation
Robert S. Waters Charitable Trust
Wabtec Corporation
WestinghouseSilver Sponsors
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania
The Kraft Heinz Company
Koppers
Perlora
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Robert & Mary Weisbrod Foundation
Woodmere Foundation

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