History in the Making at the National Museum of Industrial History

by Megan Pildis

The history of American industry is a story about the people, machines, ideas, and resources that transformed the nation from an agrarian society to a global industrial power. At the National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH) in Bethlehem, PA visitors can explore the industry’s past, present, and future through dynamic interactive exhibits and engaging programs that stimulate the senses. Visitors can try their hand at lifting pig iron, carrying a silk thread bobbin board, generating horsepower, and stepping into the basket of a hot air balloon.

“Our mission, in affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution, is to forge a connection between America’s industrial past and the innovations of today by educating the public and inspiring the visionaries of tomorrow,” said President & CEO Kara Mohsinger. “Since opening to the public in 2016, we’ve welcomed visitors of all ages from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries.”

Housed in the 1913-built Electric Repair Shop of the sprawling former Bethlehem Steel plant, the museum is the historical anchor of the vibrant arts and cultural district in South Bethlehem. Steps away from the iconic Bethlehem Steel Blast furnaces, NMIH showcases a world-class collection of artifacts and archival materials, including many of the first-made, last-produced, oldest-surviving, and longest-running inventions in US history.

In addition to long-term indoor and outdoor exhibits on the American Industrial Revolution and the 1876 World’s Fair, silk and textiles, iron and steel, propane, and more, NMIH offers a robust schedule of changing exhibits and special programs as well as providing mobile tours, group tours, school field trips, live demonstrations, and hands-on youth programs. On select dates, visitors can operate a restored 1941 narrow gauge locomotive or witness a live demonstration of a massive 100-year-old 115-ton Corliss steam engine. During Free Family Sundays, youth 12 and under receive free admission when accompanied by an adult. Guests can participate in hands-on Metal Melting and STEAM Adventure programs on select dates. Annual events include Steel Weekend & Steelworkers Reunion, a two-day exploration of all things steel, and World’s Fair Weekend, where visitors can step back in time to experience the first World’s Fair on US soil.

“We are particularly proud of our educational initiatives. Not only are we connecting with local school children for in-person field trips, but also providing virtual experiences and digital resources for students around the globe,” said Mohsinger. “We aim to foster a deeper understanding of how significant a role industry past and present play in our lives and to inspire young people to invent and innovate.”

The National Museum of Industrial History, located at 602 East Second Street in Bethlehem, PA, is open from 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Discounts are available for Veterans & Active-Duty Military, Seniors, Students & Educators, Youth, and EBT/Snap cardholders. Guided tours, field trips, and group discounts are available with advanced reservations. Space rental is also available for a wide variety of corporate and social events. Full details on tickets, upcoming exhibits, and events can be found on their website at www.nmih.org

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