My wife and I live in Northern Virginia and volunteer at one of the Smithsonian museums there. We are museum nerds. The Senator John Heinz History Center is the best regional/city museum I have ever seen. Europe, Asia, other US museums....none come close.
The museum covers six floors and incorporates the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. The displays and artifacts are beautifully arranged, illuminated and presented to tell clear and accurate stories. Placards are clear and easy to read. Lighting is comfortable and facilitates photography. A casual visitor could easily spend 2-3 hours. Someone with a particular interest could spend an entire day.
Most noteworthy were the mannequins used in the dioramas and displays. These are Madame Tussaud-quality mannequins that add to the displays. Not merely serving as "clothes hanger.
but advancing the story.
There are numerous interactive stations for kids. And the displays offer an intimate feel. Many museums present artifacts in cases and behind barriers. These displays are "open" in ways most museums would never permit.
The Sports Museum is extraordinary, offering displays on scholastic and amateur as well as professional. Everything from marbles, to boat racing, to men and women's sports, it is truly exceptional.
As good as the museum is, and it is very good, there are areas that could use some help.
Docents or tour guides could expand on the displays. Some of the displays were a bit maze-like and tough to navigate.
The curatorial and collections staff have allowed many artifacts to deteriorate. Shoes are disintegrate in their case.Clothing improperly displayed are tearing and pulling apart at the seams. Someone seriously needs their butt kicked for allowing this to happen.
All that said, this is a great museum with a lot to offer the visitor. It should be on the must-see list for any visitor or resident.
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