Friends of the Zeiss RFP Response 2002 May 22 Page V-1
"The Rise of Steel Technology" Mural
By Nat Youngblood
Commissioned by the United States Steel Corporation
Description and History: This historic artifact is located along the southern wall of the Great Hall, above the main entrance to The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. Well-known Pittsburgh artist Nat Youngblood painted this mural in the 1960s; it was commissioned by the United States Steel Corporation.
This mural includes its own sophisticated lighting system. Certain segments of the mural can be lighted independently, as a docent speaks to a group on the history of steel technology. A portable control unit, located in what is now the Discovery Gift Shop Office, would be used by the docent to control the lighting of the mural during a building tour.
This mural provides the viewer a brief but very graphic view of how the technology of making steel began and became the lynchpin of our technological society--as well as the predominant industry for most of the history of Western Pennsylvania. You can read more details about this mural at the following URL, which includes a sample tour script for Buhl docents:
< http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/Buhlexhibits.htm#USSmural >
Proposal: Friends of the Zeiss proposes that this mural would continue to be displayed in its current location, as part of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and Center. Our understanding is that Buhl Planetarium's Great Hall, where this mural is currently located, will primarily be used as a cafe by the Children's Museum. So, not only will this mural not conflict with Children's Museum programming, it will add a nice artistic and educational touch to this cafe area.
We note that no organizations, other than Friends of the Zeiss and The Carnegie Science Center, opted to view this mural during the tour dates offered by the Department of General Services.
It is our understanding that The Carnegie Science Center has not expressed an interest in this artifact. Indeed, during the new Science Center's construction, when a Buhl Planetarium patron urged Buhl management to move this mural to The Carnegie Science Center, management's decision was a resounding no! It was the view of then-Buhl Science Center Director Alphonse DeSena that if this woman wanted the mural moved to The Carnegie Science Center, she would have to pay to have it moved!
Jane Werner, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, recently stated that she is concerned regarding the lead-based paints used in this artifact. Robert Lodge, President of McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc. located in Oberlin, Ohio, found this remark surprising.
In an April 18 message, he said: "The issue of lead-based pigments being hazardous is interesting. Museums are full of art with colored media based on lead, as well as mercury and chromium. There would be a hazard only if the paint is flaking into the environment or children are chewing on the mural. The presence of lead dust can easily be performed by the health dept with a swipe."
Please note that McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory, Inc. provides conservation services to The Carnegie Museum of Art, as well for the conservation of murals in Federal Buildings in 17 midwestern states, under a contract with the U.S. General Services Administration.
Friends of the Zeiss RFP Response 2002 May 22 Page V-2
Considering the height of "The Rise of Steel Technology" mural, there is practically no chance that children could chew on the mural. To determine whether there is any flaking of paint or lead dust in the environment, we would ask the Allegheny County Health Department to make an evaluation.
Depending on the Health Department's findings, we would raise funds to take what remedial action is deemed necessary. Upon the Health Department's recommendation, we may seek periodic evaluations regarding this issue.
Unless another suitable location is found, to publicly display this artifact, it should remain in its current location. If this artifact is removed from its current location and placed in storage, it is likely that it will never again see the light of day. If no one else is willing to display this artifact now, it is very unlikely that someone will be willing to spend the money to have the mural remounted in the future.
Should this artifact be removed and placed in storage, the residents of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania would be deprived of viewing, and learning from, a major artwork by one of our own. And, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and Center will have a large vacant wall, instead of an educational work of art.