National Museum of Industry History

A relatively recent addition to the area, the National Museum of Industrial History, just opened in late 2016 and is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution; it seeks to preserve, educate, and display the industrial history of the nation.

It’s not just a cool place to visit — it’s in a cool place, an old building that used to be part of Bethlehem Steel. You can still see parts left over from its Bethlehem Steel days, which was used to carry extremely heavy machinery across the building. 

The museum has four exhibitions, each focusing on a different aspect of industrial history that affected both Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.The museum showcases the nation’s industrial past by highlighting the machinery and the lives of workers at that time period.

It also is home to more than 200 unique artifacts that cannot be seen elsewhere– whether it is the first made, the oldest-surviving, longest-operating, or last-produced!

It holds a collection of artifacts from the textile, steel and iron, and propane gas industries. The NMIH holds a significant collection of industrial machinery on loan from the Institute’s National Museum of American History. The museum also has a large collection of documents, machinery, photographs, and other archival material from Bethlehem Steel.
I was fascinated by the evolution of the machines in the machinery hall, from foot operated to the more mechanized. I also thought it was cool to see the machines that workers had lovingly decorated — the pride they took in the machines that were part of their livelihood. 
This is a great museum for kids — just don’t linger too long on any one artifact. The colors will fascinate them, and there are cool stuff for them to tinker with (that is allowed and encouraged) throughout the museum to keep their interest. It’s also a great museum for adults. As an adult, I was struck by the sheer playful colors the various items of machinery sported. It kind of goes against all my pre-conceptions of what the heavy machinery would have looked like. As an photographer, this was a dream place to experiment with different compositions. 

Getting there: 602 East 2nd Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015

Hours: The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.
The museum will be closed Easter Sunday (April 1, 2018), Christmas Day (December 25, 2018), and New Year’s Day (January 1, 2019). The museum will have shortened hours (10 am to 2 pm) on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2018).


Beginning in late November, I started a series of posts about Lehigh Valley, PA. This is the fourth installment of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label “Lehigh Valley” below this post.

For other day trip destinations in Lehigh Valley, go to the Blog’s Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Lehigh Valley label below.

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