Tag Archives: Carnegie Museum

Do the Dinosaurs Come Alive at Night?

Today’s post is from Deanna, a volunteer in the Music, Film and Audio Department.

Teaching at the Carnegie Museums is fun. I enjoy taking students through the museums and teaching in the classrooms hidden beneath the Museum of Natural History. Giving them a learning experience they cannot normally receive in their regular, school classroom is a rewarding adventure. When we travel through the Jurassic Period of dinosaurs in the museum, many students notice that there are glass panels with books behind them. Regular patrons of the library know that from the book side of the glass, you can look down into the museums and see the Diplodocus (right) and Apatosaurus (left). These are the two main dinosaurs that trigger the question: “Do the dinosaurs come alive at night?” I say that they will have to ask security because I am not at the museum at night.


I tell students about how special it is to have a public library as vast and impressive as the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Depending on the age of the students, I receive various responses to this. Some students want to tell me about their library at school. Others want to know how many books are in the library (Ed. note: There are more than a million items in the collection at Main!). Once in a while, however, I get a student who says something to the effect of, “So what?” One student asked, “Why have a library when I can just go to the bookstore and buy the book?”

I smile at this, knowing that I used to be like this kid. When you’re ten years old, what is the difference between a library and a bookstore? They both have books, right? One has books that you take home to read and never worry about again because you’ve already paid for it. The other has books that you take home to read but you must take care of the book and you bring it back or else you pay a fine. To a ten-year-old, this seems like a common perspective.

The parents and teachers participating in my museum learning experiences smile too, but not for the same reason. Many of these adults love to learn and they want to instill that love into their children, hence why they are in the museums in the first place. They also know what anyone who pays bills or student loans knows: These books are free! When that ten-year-old asked what is so great about a library, his parent immediately piped up, “Don’t you see? Someone else bought those books for you so that you don’t have to! Instead of worrying about a fine, you just need to remember to bring it back!” The student said, “Oh,” in the way young people do when they understand what you mean but haven’t really changed their minds.

Lately, I answer these types of questions about the library in a slightly different manner. I ask the student what their favorite books or TV show is or their favorite movie. I get a lot of the same answers: Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hunger Games, and a range of DC and Marvel comics and their movies. Then, no matter what the student answers, I tell them that they can probably find that comic book or movie or book in the Library.

Students are smarter than me though. “What if it isn’t in there?” they ask. I respond, “They can ask another library to borrow it.” Again, students are smarter. “What if they don’t have it?” “Then,” I say, “they will buy it for you to keep in their collection, and all you need to do is show them your library card.”

By now, it starts to dawn on them: Libraries are cool. All those books for free, and when they hear that they can also check out DVDs and CDs, their eyes light up in a way that all educators live for. Sometimes, I mention dinosaur books and books on mummies. That generates excitement and a nice transition for us to return to the class topic.

After class, I stay to answer questions from the adults. They ask more challenging questions regarding the museum and the class I taught, but they also have library questions. They want to know where they can pick up a library card and often, when I’m leaving the museum or volunteering for the Carnegie Library, I see them pick up a library card and take their child to a place in the library with materials that interest them both.

Remember that ten-year-old? The one that didn’t think libraries are cool? While leaving with his new dinosaur book that he had to return in a few weeks, he muttered a thank you to his dad, who was holding Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, before saying: “Okaaayyyy, I guess libraries are cool.”


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Do you have your mother’s wedding dress stored in your attic but don’t know how to keep it fresh?  What about a family bible handed down for generations? Are your old photographs strewn about in some old shoebox? Are you worried about the way you are storing a precious keepsake, and fear doing it damage? Are you a fan of Antiques Roadshow?

If you answered yes to any of these, or have similar questions, you are in for a treat!  The Preservation Fair is coming once again to the Carnegie Museum’s Music Hall Foyer, on Saturday, October 22. Visit the official website for details.  

The Preservation Fair is a one-day public information event at which you can get expert advice on how to protect and correctly display many different types of family keepsakes and treasures. Over 30 professional conservators, archivists, and librarians will be on hand to discuss your individual interests. Exhibitors include conservators specializing in books, documents, paintings, textiles, photographs and films. Historical Societies, Genealogical Societies, Community Preservation Organizations, and vendors dealing in conservation and preservation supplies will also be represented. Ongoing free demonstrations and lectures will be presented throughout the event, with a keynote address at 12:00 noon by Rick Sebak, the award-winning documentary producer!

The event is free with Museum admission.

Here is a special bonus not to miss!  Bring in a family treasure, one item per visitor, for free basic conservation advice. No appraisals or valuations will be given.

Can’t make it?  Don’t worry!  The library has lots of resources.

Your librarians have created a few useful guides to pertinent subjects:

Antiques & Collectibles – Identify and price your antiques with these print and online resources.  This will point you to specific guides like Antique Furniture and Saving Your Family Treasures.

Art Research Databases – Helpful tips for locating resources in print and online, and for learning about art.

Researching Your Art – Evaluation and Appraisal – Where did this come from? Who is this artist? Are they famous? and of course, how much is it worth?!?

Historic Preservation – Resources and organizations for preserving historic homes, buildings, etc.

Historical Societies & Commissions – Join a local group to learn about local history.

Biography & Genealogy – Genealogy resources.

Audio-Visual Resources in Pittsburgh – Vendors that convert film, video, photographs, and analog audio to digital (along with other guides).

These are links to subject headings in our catalog for areas we do not (yet) provide resource guides:

Books Conservation And Restoration Handbooks Manuals Etc

Bookbinding — Repairing — Handbooks, manuals, etc.

Textile Fabrics Conservation And Restoration

Photographs Conservation And Restoration


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Working With What We Have

I love Doug Aitken‘s film Migration that’s currently being projected onto the front and back walls of the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of this year’s Carnegie International. It moves me. So much so that I laid down on the concrete in front of the museum at 12:30 at night to take the photos below. It was not easy. But I needed to share the goodness that is this film. I sent it in an email to friends and family with the subject line Pittsburgh fall nights and a message body that said I love Pittsburgh.

I like Aitken’s film because it articulates for me how sad and beautiful and weird contemporary life in these United States can be. The animals in the film are quintessentially North American species who find themselves in various motel rooms (quintessentially American spaces). Like most of us humans, they try to make the best of it. Sometimes we resist, like the buffalo who smashes a lamp, or the bird – I think it was the bald eagle – who rips the guts out of the down comforter:

Sometimes we just have to break open the mini bar like the deer in the film does. Sometimes we’re powerful and beautiful and wild as horses, sometimes ridiculous and sad like a beaver in a bathtub.

Well, we’re working with what we have.

– Jude

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