Carnegie Science Center opened on October 5, 1991. Our story is not unlike the story of the river that flows past our doorstep. Just as the Allegheny and the Monongahela converge to create the great Ohio, two very unique local institutions joined to create this exciting museum.
Pittsburgh industrialist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie envisioned a cultural complex where Pittsburghers of every age, occupation and income could enjoy what he called the "noble quartet: art, science, music and literature." The Carnegie Institute, which originally included the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, Library and Music Hall, opened November 25, 1895, in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. From its inception, the Carnegie strove to bring contemporary developments in the "four nobles to the public". In a time before mass media, the only way for common Pittsburghers to see what artists and researchers from the US and around the world were doing was to bring samples of their work to Pittsburgh by ship and by train - aircraft and tractor-trailers were yet to be invented! This mission led to the creation of the Carnegie International art exhibition in 1896 and powered the Institute's efforts in collecting the fossil dinosaur bones for which it is still known today. When Carnegie died in 1919, he had given away the great majority of his fabulous wealth. The Museums and Library stand today as a distinctive reminder of the fortune he made in the steel industry and remain as a testament to Carnegie's vision and generosity.
On October 24, 1939, Pittsburgh became home to the fifth major planetarium in the United States, the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science. The Buhl was a gift to the people of Pittsburgh from the $11 million Buhl Foundation in memory of its founder, Henry Buhl, Jr. (1856-1927). Mr. Buhl made his fortune as co-owner of the successful Boggs and Buhl Department Store on the Northside, and specifically suggested that part of his foundation funds be used to support initiatives in his beloved neighborhood. To this end, the foundation endowed the Buhl, with a planetarium in honor of Henry's wife Louise.
The Buhl became a gateway to scientific knowledge and careers in scientific pursuits for generations of Pittsburghers. Its centerpiece was the "Theater of the Stars,” a planetarium featuring a Model II Zeiss Star Projector that could accurately display 9,000 of the brightest stars in the sky. The Buhl housed a Foucault Pendulum, a device that demonstrates the earth's rotation on its axis. On the rooftop, a siderostat telescope automatically followed a star or planet across the sky. The Buhl also had some of the world's first interactive exhibits, which featured push buttons that set off alarms in a control room, where a staff person would play the appropriate record to provide an audio explanation of the exhibit - the height of innovation at the time!
Always devoted to public education, the Buhl encouraged young people to explore the world of science and became the meeting place for dozens of groups interested in scientific and technological pursuits. The Buhl was a model for supporting the scientific education of the people of Pittsburgh, initiating the prestigious science fair that still engages young scientists today. During World War II, it trained the military in celestial navigation. In 1954, the Miniature Railroad & Village® opened at the Buhl, combining model trains with western Pennsylvania history. In 1958, the Buhl began the Junior Space Academy as a local response to the launch of Sputnik and the dawn of the Space Age.
By the 1980s, the original Buhl building was aging and options for expansion and growth were considered. When expansion of the existing building was ruled out, the site where Carnegie Science Center now stands was chosen for the Buhl's relocation. As options for expansion of the newly renamed Buhl Science Center were explored, it became apparent that a whole new institution was evolving, requiring increased staffing in development, building services, science education and public relations.
At this point, the Carnegie Institute indicated an interest in merging with the Buhl. The merger was completed with the approval of each institution's Board in 1987, and in 1989, the new building planned for the banks of the Ohio River was renamed Carnegie Science Center. Ground was broken on October 5, 1989, and Carnegie Science Center opened two years later. The Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium and Observatory was reinvented in the new facility, becoming a mainstay of the CSC experience.
Today, people from around the globe recognize the name and reputation of Carnegie Science Center, its traveling exhibits, and planetarium shows. From Atlantic to Pacific, Europe to Australia, programs and exhibits developed by Carnegie Science Center enlighten, inspire, and entertain scores of museum and planetarium visitors. The Science Center is a national example for integration into its community, and in 2003 was recognized for its exceptional level of community service with the National Award for Museum Service, the highest honor of its kind, at a White House ceremony with First Lady Laura Bush. Closer to home, former visitors to the Buhl and Carnegie Science Center tell of the experiences that inspired them to become scientists, educators, entrepreneurs… even astronauts and Olympic athletes!