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The H.J. Heinz Company Exhibit

on Tue, 09/23/2014 - 00:00

During the late Nineteenth Century, Pittsburgh was home to three titans of industry who played major roles in not only the development of the city but the nations as well. There was Andrew Carnegie, who ruled the steel industry; George Westinghouse, who made railroad travel safer with his braking system and brought electricity to the masses with AC power; and H.J. Heinz, who revolutionized the concept of prepared foods with a plethora of products ranging from horseradish to pickles to ketchup. The impact of the H.J. Heinz Company goes beyond its manufacturing abilities, however, as an expanded 2014 exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center clearly demonstrates via both historical artifacts and video chronicles of the food processing giant.

“By the time of his death in 1919, H.J. Heinz’s company had grown into one of the largest food processing businesses in the nation, selling its condiments, sauces, pickles, and preserves all over the world,” the exhibit explains. “The Heinz recipe for success included the following ingredients—a growing market for prepared foods, an innovative spirit, a wide variety of products, commitment to quality, abundant and creative advertising, and enterprising sales techniques.” Although the early childhood of H.J. Heinz and the birth of his company are recounted, the History Center has placed much of its emphasis on those “ingredients,” showing how Heinz impacted more than just the way we purchase ketchup in the process.

The Carnegie Museum and JuROSSic Park Mall

on Mon, 09/01/2014 - 00:00

Approximately 150 million years ago, the region near the present-day German town of Solnhofen was a lagoon at the edge of the Tethys Sea. With limited access to open currents, high levels of salinity and shallow water, the area was not suitable to sustain life but the conditions likewise made it ideal for preserving fossils. Over 750 plant and animal species have been found imbedded within the limestone of Solnhofen, mostly of crinoids, ammonites, fishes and crustaceans that drifted in from the ocean or wandered into the region via land, giving a fossilized record of life during the Jurassic Period that goes beyond mere dinosaurs.

Pittsburgh is a long way from Germany, but the Steel City has not one but two collections of fossil-embedded Solnhofen limestone. The first is located at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, whose impressive assortment of relics includes the preserved remains of pterosaurs, an ancient reptile that was capable of flight and includes the pterodactyl amongst its relations. While Oakland may now be the home of those specimens, meanwhile, fossilized remains of coiled-shell ammonites, sponges, algae and worms can also be found in Ross Township in the most unlikely of places—the floor of Ross Park Mall. It turns out that when the shopping complex was remodeled in the year 2000, the tiles used were imported limestone from Solnhofen that contained noticeable traces of Jurassic Period creatures on their surface regions.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow Review

on Thu, 08/21/2014 - 00:00

Within the pages of Steel City native Thomas Sweterlitsch’s first novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Putnam, 2014), the city of Pittsburgh has been destroyed, the victim of a nuclear explosion set off by a lone terrorist ten years earlier. While the world has changed during the intervening decade—with society becoming obsessed with violent revenge for such actions—Pittsburgh itself continues to exist in a virtual world known as the Archive. Using video footage from traffic cameras, surveillance systems and even webcams from home computers, the Library of Congress has recreated the Steel City, up to and including the fateful moment of its destruction. The Archive serves as both homage and remembrance to those who died in the tragedy, a lasting record of a lost city and a way for survivors to cope with their own personal bereavement.

In many ways, Tomorrow and Tomorrow is hard to pin down in regards to genre. Science fiction immediately comes to mind, with a mid-Twenty First Century dystopian setting similar to the futures imagined by such classic sci-fi novelists as Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. The novel also contains numerous ventures into the Archive, meanwhile, offering a realistic vision of Pittsburgh with chapters containing not even the slightest tint of science fiction. Then there is the main narrative itself, which revolves around the recent discovery of a murdered girl within the virtual reality of Pittsburgh—a previously unknown crime committed ten years earlier that the main protagonist of the novel becomes determined to solve—making Tomorrow and Tomorrow part detective story to go along with its many other ingredients.