Located in a former steel mill dating back 100 years, Bethlehem’s National Museum of Industrial History functions as a dedication to America’s industrial past.
As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum, which opened in 2016, is located on 602 E. Second St. in Bethlehem. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. It features over 200 artifacts, but its display continues to grow thanks to donations by private donors and other institutions.
The museum aims to tell not only the story of America’s transition to an industrial society but also the accompanying story of the community that allowed for this transformation.
Sydney Becker, ’20, said the museum placed a focus on the history and community of Bethlehem, specifically referencing the exhibit that showcases the populations that Bethlehem citizens historically belonged to and where they immigrated from.
“The museum adds a layer of history to impressive industrial achievements,” Becker said.
With this newly found perspective, Becker was able to grasp the influence the city and its infamous steel industry had on the rest of the world.
Glenn Koehler, the marketing and outreach coordinator of the National Museum of Industrial History, said the museum represents a smaller version of our modern-day nation.
“The museum is important because the Lehigh Valley was a microcosm of what was going on in the U.S.,” Koehler said.
He said industrialization touches on all facets of American life, which allows the museum to concentrate on the industrial process while also educating visitors on our nation’s history.
Mahesh Vyas, a staff member at the museum, said Bethlehem Steel and the Lehigh Valley has had a far-reaching impact across the country.
“Steel for the skyscrapers in New York and for the Golden Gate Bridge came from Bethlehem Steel,” Vyas said.
Only a short walk from campus, the museum’s exhibits span a wide range of topics pertaining to industrialization. Providing an array of artifacts, the museum displays pieces obtained from three main sources — loaned artifacts from the National Museum of American History, iron and steel pieces that once belonged to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and textiles donated by Scalamandre Inc.
In the upcoming weeks, the National Museum of Industrial History is hosting its annual holiday challenge where all entries will remain on display from Nov. 23 – Dec. 30. Putting a spin on the classic gingerbread house, the museum challenges participants to create bridges and skyscrapers made entirely out of gingerbread.
Past entries have included a recreation of the Empire State Building that towered six feet high and Allentown’s own Eighth Street Bridge. Participants can enter in one of four age groups — elementary, middle school, high school and adults at least 18 years old. Two winners from each age group will be announced at an awards ceremony on Nov. 29.