By Marcelle Wilson
Director, Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, a.k.a. the Steel Museum, has weathered economic uncertainty and declines in patronage during its 29 years but we never faced the challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at us.
We closed our museum at 151 W. Wood St. from mid-March through June 30 but kept its presence alive through social media. We had only a small digital presence before the pandemic, and had to think of ways to make our artifacts and stories available to the public in a new format.
Working remotely, staff created a variety of material for our Facebook page. We attended webinars to learn what other museums were doing. We highlighted online material such as Ohio Memory and The Youngstown Sheet and Tube Bulletin. We wrote stories about the 1918 influenza pandemic as well as other topics related to labor, industry and history.
After reopening in July, we provided special hours for vulnerable populations, adopted rigorous cleaning procedures, and limited visitation to reservation-only.
In the fall, interns began to digitize programs and exhibits that once were only available in-person. One of our biggest successes was the Manufacturing Day digital exhibit, which showcased past, present and future companies in the area.
Another was the Ohio Open Doors program, a walking tour of Youngstown. I especially liked this program because it blended what we strive to achieve: a program that reaches all people, including those with limited abilities and limited mobility. Photographs allowed anyone to view the beautiful architecture of local buildings, audio descriptions highlighted the buildings for people with limited sight, and historic information provided descriptions for those with hearing impairments.
As we moved into 2021, we launched our updated website, which allows us to share more Youngstown stories and interact with patrons.
New digital exhibits on the William B. Pollock Company and the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association will open in the spring.