One of the best things about Pittsburgh has to be this group of museums: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the Carnegie Science Center.
On a brisk winter’s day, drive to the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, park* near the University of Pittsburgh to first treat yourself to a trip through the Cathedral of Learning. Admire the 1937 gothic architecture and take the elevator up to the 36th floor. This gives you a wonderful bird’s eye perspective on the layout of the museum, the location of the Carnegie Library and the Phipps Conservatory.
Back on terra firm, walk a block over to the circular (Carriage) drive and pop into one of the gorgeous foyers of the museum—first taking a moment to step to the right and take in the beauty of the Carnegie Music Hall. Although the entrance is usually roped off due to an impending event, you can step a few feet into the room and take in the grandeur. The theatre itself is a perfect venue for shows and lectures.
My first trip to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History was in sixth grade and while many of the exhibits have remained the same, they are well-maintained, impressive and not dated. It speaks to the original curators’ interest in doing things right.
The museum offers discounts and on this particular visit my brother and his wife, a teacher, joined us. Teachers get in free and three of their guests get half-price admittance—what a great surprise.
Permanent Exhibits Halls include:
Geology & Paleontology –
Dinosaurs in Their Time
Doesn’t everyone marvel over a good dinosaur? Or a bad one in the case of the city’s beloved T-Rex? When you land at the Pittsburgh International Airport and descend to the train area to go to baggage, hopefully you won’t be so tired that you miss T-Rex. He stands between escalators and growls his hello to you. His cousin dominates the museum’s dinosaur display along with the Apatosaurus (known as a Brontosaurus back in my day).
In 2003 there were 100 colorful and varied dinosaurs scattered around the city, including Fredosaurus Rex, outfitted in Mr. Fred Rogers style. You may still be able to spot these colorfully painted characters here and there.
It’s always fun to drive by the museum and see what scarf Dippy (Diplodocus carnegii) may be wearing. Both this fiberglass, “flesh” covered replica and the original bones-only one inside are posed full length and tall.
Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems
This hall rapidly becomes over whelming with more than 400 specimens displayed brilliantly against dark backgrounds. They come from all over the earth and are complemented in their roughness by the Wertz Gems & Jewelry addition—2,000 square feet of space that includes jewelry created from these gorgeous materials.
Benedum Hall of Geology, PaleoLab, Cenozoic Hall – covering the age of mammals and their evolutionary history.
Wildlife & Ecology –
It’s fun that in this area there are a number of animals on display with “touch me” signs. Pay attention, though, because most of them are hands off and should be respected as so.
African Wildlife, North American Wildlife, Botany Hall, Population Impact
These three halls give a glimpse into worlds far from Pittsburgh and meandering through them educates and enlightens you. I’ve always found the Arctic Life to be enticing and the American Indian collection enthralling.
Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt, Polar World: Wyckoff Hall of Arctic Life, Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians
There are multiple learning computers available for kids (and adults). The exhibits are clearly marked and have broad spaces between them to make viewing easy.
Housed in the same structure as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (and included in the $19.95 ticket price) is the Carnegie Museum of Art. The Hall of Architecture is directly behind the Carriage Drive entry’s ticket desk. This hall contains over 140 plaster casts of pieces from around the globe, continuing to endure as do the originals. For people who may never get to stand before a holy water basin in Siena or a Grecian sculpture, it’s a marvel to look at these replicas and be amazed.
One of our visits found me facing the Mark Rothko painting that I have on my office wall. “Yellow and Blue” in the original is 8.5 feet by 5.5 feet—considerably larger than the print I’ve been carting around for years. And pricier—Sotheby’s sold it for $46.5 million in 2015. It’s this quality, even if you’re not a Rothko fan, that the Art Museum has on exhibit.
We’ve seen a visiting Van Gogh exhibit and Water Lilies by Claude Monet. My husband’s mother, Gertrude Gordon, was part of a strong community of artists who used to display here. When we wander through I hope to see one of her paintings retrieved from their vaults.
There is a multitude of furniture on show and rooms full of many icons and paintings. The talent is stunning, every time.
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have these museums and I urge natives to get out there and take advantage of them. Go to radworkshere.org and sign up to be notified for free or discounted admission to select locations in 2017.
*There is a huge parking lot on the museum grounds.
The museum is closed on Tuesdays, so plan around that.
They offer an “In the Moment: Tour for Visitors with Alzheimer’s,” which is an incredible idea.Pittsburgh is fortunate to have the Carnegie Museums and I urge natives to get out there and take advantage of them. Click To Tweet