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Palace of Culture

Palace of Culture: Andrew Carnegie's Museums and Library in Pittsburgh

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Palace of Culture
    Book Description:

    Andrew Carnegie is remembered as one of the world's great philanthropists. As a boy, he witnessed the benevolence of a businessman who lent his personal book collection to laborer's apprentices. That early experience inspired Carnegie to create the "Free to the People" Carnegie Library in 1895 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1896, he founded the Carnegie Institute, which included a music hall, art museum, and science museum. Carnegie deeply believed that education and culture could lift up the common man and should not be the sole province of the wealthy. Today, his Pittsburgh cultural institution encompasses a library, music hall, natural history museum, art museum, science center, the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Carnegie International art exhibition.InPalace of Culture,Robert J. Gangewere presents the first history of a cultural conglomeration that has served millions of people since its inception and inspired the likes of August Wilson, Andy Warhol, and David McCullough. In this fascinating account, Gangewere details the political turmoil, budgetary constraints, and cultural tides that have influenced the caretakers and the collections along the way. He profiles the many benefactors, trustees, directors, and administrators who have stewarded the collections through the years. Gangewere provides individual histories of the library, music hall, museums, and science center, and describes the importance of each as an educational and research facility.Moreover,Palace of Culturedocuments the importance of cultural institutions to the citizens of large metropolitan areas. The Carnegie Library and Institute have inspired the creation of similar organizations in the United States and serve as models for museum systems throughout the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7969-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. 1 THE CARNEGIE YEARS: “Pittsburghers Knew I Was One of Themselves”
    (pp. 1-24)

    Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in America, was short of cash when he turned down a request to donate a church organ to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1897. He explained to Bishop Henry Codman Cotter of the New York Diocese, “I am pledged to spend millions and more in and around Pittsburgh, your starting place as it was mine. This is my cathedral work. Some day I should so like to have you go there with me and see the latent desires for the higher things the Institute has called forth—...

  2. 2 BUILDING A PALACE OF CULTURE: “I Felt That Aladdin and His Lamp Had Been at Work”
    (pp. 25-62)

    When andrew carnegie dedicated the completed Institute in 1907, he said first, “I have been in a dream from the moment I entered this Institute yesterday. I have been in a dream all morning and am not yet awake…. I really cannot understand at all. I think it is a defect in my nature. I confess to you, as I have had to confess to several, that I am totally unable to realize that I have had any part in creating this Institute.”¹

    Playing the role of the bemused dreamer on the Music Hall stage, he skillfully glossed over the...

  3. 3 THE HIGH COMMAND–A CENTURY OF GOVERNANCE: “Men Capable of His Own Zeal”
    (pp. 63-90)

    John morley, one of Andrew Carnegie’s “old shoes,” as Carnegie termed his intimate friends, knew the founder for decades. A distinguished British statesman, Morley considered Carnegie an idealist “who lives and works with his ideals, and drudges over them every day of his life.” He described how Carnegie chose his partners and successors and motivated them to share his aspirations: “Much too shrewd to suppose one man competent by himself to perfect and administer all the many schemes to which his name belongs, it is impossible not to admire the pains he has taken in inducing the right men to...

  4. 4 CARNEGIE MUSIC HALL: “Music, Sacred Tongue of God”
    (pp. 91-106)

    Listening to music delighted Carnegie but did not match his passion for literature and libraries. While he donated music halls to Pittsburgh, Allegheny City, Braddock, and other communities to which he felt indebted, his friend Walter Damrosch, the conductor and composer who persuaded him to build New York City’s Carnegie Hall, later noted that Carnegie’s “admiration for music in its simpler forms never crystallized into as great a conviction regarding its importance in life as that he had regarding the importance of science or literature, and though always generous in support, his benefactions never became as great as in other...

  5. 5 CARNEGIE LIBRARY OF PITTSBURGH: “Free to the People”
    (pp. 107-128)

    “Free to the people” is carved in stone over the entrance to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the doorways of many of the 2,509 libraries Andrew Carnegie donated. Carnegie donated the buildings only and required the community to support them. Typically, a community would be asked to annually provide one-tenth of the amount of his own gift; the public would thus benefit from a 10 percent return on the initial donation in perpetuity. “This was not philanthropy but a clever stroke of business,” he joked, viewing himself as a businessman striking a bargain for the public.¹

    Competitor that he was,...

  6. 6 CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF ART: “The Moral Mission of Art”
    (pp. 129-172)

    Carnegie rarely rhapsodized about the visual arts, but he did so in his 1895 dedication speech. The rapt Music Hall audience of Pittsburgh’s business and intellectual elite applauded in appreciation as Carnegie declared his resistance to artistic fads and outlined his hopes for the new Department of Fine Arts:

    I remember, as if it were yesterday, when I first awoke to the sense of color, and what an awakening it was and has been. A child, sitting in a cold, barren little church, the only relief to the dull white walls and plain ceiling being one inch of a border...

    (pp. 173-244)

    “Carnegie museum” is arguably the most famous component of Carnegie Institute. It is far larger, wider, and deeper in its collections than Carnegie Museum of Art; has more curators than the art museum; and with its twenty million objects considers itself among the top half-dozen natural history museums in the United States. It is the elephant in the room in terms of research and collections, completely dwarfing the other three Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. To its staff and the public, it was originally “the Museum” in Pittsburgh.

    It is not to be confused with Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., which...

    (pp. 245-264)

    When pittsburgh opened Buhl Planetarium in 1939—the fifth planetarium in the United States—it joined the big leagues in popular astronomy, part of a trend that had started in the 1920s in Europe with the famous Zeiss system for projecting the stars and then gradually moved to the United States. Pittsburgh’s planetarium was the result of a landmark grant for science education in the United States, the largest gift the Buhl Foundation had ever made. Since that time, planetariums have flourished, until by 2006 there were some five thousand science centers or comparable institutions worldwide. In Pittsburgh, the Buhl...

  9. 9 THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM: “He Harvested Ideas from Everything”
    (pp. 265-286)

    At first glance, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Warhola seem to have little in common. Born nearly a century apart, they were children of different ages, Carnegie (1835–1919) the symbolic entrepreneur of the American industrial age, Warhol (1928–87) the most celebrated Pop artist in the New York scene of the 1960s–80s.¹ On closer examination, however, the two had much in common. Both were from poor immigrant families and spent two decades growing up in Pittsburgh. Their youthful years were dominated by their mothers, and their families’ European religious traditions shaped their lives in subtle ways. Both exhibited their...

  10. 10 IN SUMMARY
    (pp. 287-290)

    Andrew carnegie’s palace of culture has impacted generations of people in Pittsburgh and the United States, and internationally. After such a rich, complex story has been told, a brief summary is in order to bring out its key points. First, Andrew Carnegie’s steadfast interest in building a library system and a cultural center for the working class in the smoky, blighted industrial city where he had made his fortune lasted for decades, from the 1880s until his death in 1919. Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute and Library was his first great experiment in large-scale philanthropy and certainly gave him lessons that he...

  11. APPENDIX: Interview Subjects
    (pp. 291-294)