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Unique Museums Abound in Pittsburgh


Clemente runs after a hit in Forbes Field. Photo courtesy the Clemente Museum
Clemente runs after a hit in Forbes Field. Photo courtesy the Clemente Museum

Say the word “museum” in Pittsburgh and it is likely that one of the well-known, award-winning institutions such as the Warhol Museum or Heinz History Center will come to mind. But Pittsburgh is also home to several smaller museums dedicated to unique and often eccentric collections.



The Bayernhof Museum in O’Hara Township showcases a “world-class” collection of music boxes and machines, according to Jim Mousseau, curator. “It is really a hidden gem and worth exploring because of its unique story, not only in how it came to be built, but how it came to be a music museum,” Mousseau said. A former music teacher, Mousseau is the perfect guide to lead visitors through the 19,000 square foot former home of the late Charles B. Brown, III.

Located on 18.4 acres–half of which are cliffside—the home overlooks the Allegheny River and even without the music box collection, is worthy of a visit. The southern side of the building is almost completely glass, allowing outstanding views. According to Mousseau, Brown was an avid collector of music boxes and all things music. The tour of the unique home is more than just the collection: there are also features such as the swimming pool room, secret cave and observatory. “The home truly defines what eccentric means,” Mousseau said.


Tours of Bayernhof Museum are by appointment only by calling 412-782-4231. Visit https://www.bayernhofmuseum.com for more information.



While many museums focus on the past, Moonshot Space Museum looks towards the future, according to James Jamison, pathfinder. Moonshot recently celebrated their one-year anniversary and pride themselves on being Pennsylvania’s first space museum and the only one of its kind dedicated to focusing on career readiness for the space industry. “We are completely dedicated to space and space educating. The first American lander since Apollo is being built in Pittsburgh, and you can see it right here,” Jamison said. Moonshot is a partnership with the Pittsburgh based space robotics company Astrobotic and allows visitors to view a real spacecraft being built.


Younger visitors often really connect to the exhibits and activities. “Younger people may not know how they can relate to the past, but they can relate to the future. And they get to see that you may not have to be math-minded or an engineer to still be interested in space,” Jamison said. The Northside museum often hosts field trips and school groups, but all are welcome. Visit www.moonshotmuseum.org or 412- 314-4111.



Everyone is a child at heart and what better holiday treat than to visit the Western PA Model Railroad Museum located in Richland Township? According to Bob Mueser, webmaster/social media manager, the museum is the largest scale model railroad in the area and one of the oldest in the country. “You see on our display miniature representations of the real thing as they existed in 1952. As you move around the display, you’re following the tracks from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, it’s truly a railroad journey in miniature,” he said. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of railroad history in Western PA and has created a 40’ by 100’ HO scale, prototypical and historically accurate model railroad.


The display is 4,000 square feet and includes 350 locomotives, 6,500 plus feet of track, over 300,000 trees, 95 percent of which were handmade and over 2,000 cars. Locals will recognize several landmarks—both from today and the past—including Fallingwater, P&LE Train Station and Cox’s Department Store. And children love the interactive displays, according to Mueser.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization hosts a holiday show every year from mid-November through mid-January. A complete listing of days and hours can be found at show: wpmrm.org or 724-444-6944.


Roberto Clemente may have been one of best Pittsburgh Pirates of all times, but he was also a notable humanitarian. “The Clemente Museum is unique because our mission is to honor, celebrate and tell the story of one man, “El Grande,” Roberto Clemente. Clemente was not just an amazing baseball player, but also was an amazing human being,” said Zoe Fisher, community outreach manager.


“Not many museums exist that are dedicated to just one person, which not only makes us unique, but also gives us the opportunity to really focus on Clemente’s story and his life,” Fisher said. “The tours, which are an hour and a half long and led by super knowledgeable docents, focus on the whole story behind Clemente’s life. Our visitors leave the museum knowing more than just his total number of hits or bases stolen.”


While Pittsburghers of a certain age are familiar with Clemente, it is also important for younger people to learn about Clemente, his life and work, Fisher said. “Roberto Clemente was a Black Puerto Rican who barely knew English when he came to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, yet he excelled both on and off the baseball field. He dedicated his life to humanitarian efforts that were important to him, especially concentrating on helping young people,” she said. “His ability to persevere through prejudice and still give back to his community is something we need to remember and learn from, so that future generations can take his story and be inspired to do more good in the world.” The Clemente Museum is open on a tour-only basis. Visit www.clementemuseum.com for more information or or call 412-621-1268.


Another great Pittsburgh baseball player, Honus Wagner, is also honored in the tiny Honus Wagner Museum located in the historic Husler Building in Carnegie. This magical little stop is also home to The Historical Society of Carnegie, the Col. Robert R. Sawhill Jr. Center of Carnegie Military Heritage, and a 75-foot handcrafted replica of Carnegie’s Main Street during the ‘40s and ‘50s.


The Husler Building itself is worth a visit—the historic four-story landmark was built in 1896. Not only are the three tiny museums located here, but the facility is also used for community activities and has been the set for several local movies. It is reported to be haunted and featured on seasonal ghost tours.


The Honus Wagner Museum honors the famous Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop and inaugural Hall of Famer. While small, the space is full of memorabilia from the Carnegie hometown hero.

The Col. Robert R. Sawhill Jr. Center of Carnegie Military Heritage, also located in the Husler, features the Air Force Hero and former POW. The Military Wall features the names of other local veterans. Visit www.facebook.com/CarnegieHistoricalSociety or call

412-276-7447.


While in Carnegie, military and history buffs should also visit The Espy Post in the historic Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall. “The Espy Post is unique in that Grand Army of the Republic posts once existed in some 7500 locations across the country, including more than 600 in Pennsylvania and 30 in Allegheny County alone. As the Grand Army of the Republic died off, the Captain Thomas Espy Post is today considered to be perhaps the most intact remaining example of those posts,” Jon-Erik Gilot, curator, said, “It’s very much a time capsule, as though the veterans simply closed the door one day and never returned. In that sense, it’s truly a national treasure. The Espy Post is free but has limited hours. Visit www.carnegiecarnegie.org/civil-war-room or call 412-276-3456.


And like the Husler Building, the library is certainly worth a visit—built in 1901, the library is the only Carnegie library in the country to contain Carnegie’s first name and one of only five libraries endowed by Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie Music Hall is also housed in the same building. Visit www.CarnegieCarnegie.org for more information or call 412-276-3456.

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