Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh $18.5 million expansion almost complete |
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Bob Bauder
(L to R) Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, Mayor Bill Peduto and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, sign a steel beam taken from the North Side’s Carnegie Library that’s being transformed into a learning laboratory by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh is nearing the end of an $18.5 million expansion into a former North Side library that will share space with a charter school and serve as a learning laboratory and makerspace for middle school children.

The “Museumlab” will feature three core exhibits: MakeLab, a makerspace featuring wood and metalworking tools; TechLab where kids will experiment with such things as 3D printing, coding and virtual reality; and StudioLab, an art studio where children will work with artists in residence.

Public officials, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, gathered at the library Friday for a ceremonial signing of a steel beam taken from the library interior that had “Carnegie Steel” stamped into it.

“Museumlab will be a place for older kids to be inspired, flex their creativity, learn about themselves, mess around and hang out and build their futures,” said Jane Werner, the Children’s Museum executive director. “That may mean designing new apps, building furniture or (creating) interactive artwork.”

They can also climb, swing and lounge around the library’s former steel book stacks that are being transformed into an interactive art piece and playspace by Slovenian artist Manca Ahlin.

Interactive programming will be provided by The Saturday Light Brigade, a public radio program airing on Saturdays; Allies for Children, a nonprofit children’s advocacy based in Pittsburgh; the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Learning in Out-of-School-Environments; and three Carnegie Mellon University programs: the Entertainment Technology Center, iDeATe Network and Master of Arts Management.

The Manchester Academic Charter School is moving into the second floor, and the New Hazlett Theater will remain in its space on the building’s east side.

High-tech programming will be available to the public on the first floor and to charter school students.

Werner said the project is being funded through foundation, corporate and individual donations, a $1 million state grant and tax credits. It includes interior restorations of the building that opened in 1890 in what was then Allegheny City.

Workers uncovered and are restoring a Carnegie Library emblem found under carpeting and a vaulted ceiling and columns under a drop ceiling installed in the 1970s. Werner said plans include rebuilding a grand staircase and a skylight, both of which had been torn out.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who represents most of the North Side, said she’s working to have the library’s signature clock and chimes that were struck by lightning repaired.

“What this is going to be is a one-of-its-kind in the country,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “Eight-year-olds are going to be given opportunities that we create for post college, a tech shop for makers, an artist studio, the opportunity to work in design and other components, all on the same campus of one of the largest children’s museums in the nation.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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