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Get Your Geek On At Pittsburgh Museums

By Susan Constanse

I would be willing to bet that you have stepped foot in a museum since that seventh grade field trip that you took, and the only thing that you remember is the dried out chicken sandwich and juicy box that was handed out on the bus. No, the Science Center doesn't count; I'm sure that is one of your go-to places for getting your geek on.

There are so many more options for the techno-savvy in our Geek Love city. After all, Pittsburgh abounds with new technology. Visit some museums where art meets technology, where technology is aesthetic, and where the history of technology is preserved.

Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 622-3131
Hours: Tues to Sat 10am-5pm; Thurs 10am-8pm; Sun 12pm-5pm
Members and children under 3: Free; Adults: $15; Seniors (65+): $12; Students with ID and children 3-18 : $11

Do you like rocks? Well, this collection is a must see for you! Carnegie Museum of Natural History has the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, boasting an extraordinary collection ranging from common to rare. The hall is ranked with glass cases of beautifully lit minerals, polished and gleaming. The hall is spectacular, a perfect setting for a renowned collection.

The collection is 1300 pieces strong, including a human skull carved from quartz. Reminiscent of Indiana Jones, the skull was donated in 2004 and is a recent carving. Many other examples of carved jade and other precious and semi-precious stones are displayed along with the raw minerals that make up the bulk of the collection.

The Mattress Factory Art Museum

500 Sampsonia Way
Pittsburgh PA 15212
(412) 231-3169
Hours: Tues to Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 1pm-5pm
ADULTS: $10.00; STUDENTS: $7.00; Seniors: $8.00; Kids under 6 are FREE every day; CMU and Point Park University students get in FREE all year; PITT students get in FREE during Fall/Spring semester

The Mattress Factory has been supporting the creation of contemporary installation art since 1977, and houses significant works in its permanent collection. Included in the permanent collection is an early work by James Turell: Casto, Red. The installation exemplifies Turell's use and examination of the illusionary qualities of light. If your interest lies in the aural range of expression, then the sound installations of Rolf Julius would definitely appeal to you.

The museum itself is a tribute to creative reuse, with its converted factory buildings and gardens housed in the narrow, winding streets of Pittsburgh's Mexican War Streets neighborhood. Innovative exhibits from local talent are also on view at the museum, at both of their main buildings on Sampsonia Way and on Monterey Streets. As a bonus, dozens of Pittsburgh performance artists and musicians assembled along Sampsonia Way one early morning, to perform during Google's recording of the street for their street map view.

Also read: our museum spotlight feature on the Mattress Factory.

Posner Center

Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
Hours: Mon to Fri 1pm-4pm

Maintaining fine and rare books requires a dust-free, and climate controlled environment, which is practiced with much care at the Posner Center. The center staff wages war on dust, carefully manages light and maintains humidity levels, that will not impact the condition of the tomes that make up the collection. The collection was established by Helen and Henry Posner Jr. at Carnegie Mellon University in 1978.

Did you know that there are only four copies of the first printing of the U. S. Bill of Rights? One of those copies is in the Posner Collection. Also included in the collection is a first printing, first edition copy of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, as well as specially designed and bound editions, like the jem-embellished edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám , designed by Francis Sangorski, dated 1912 .


945 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 232-0199
Hours: Wed to Thurs 10am-3pm; Fri to Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 10am-3pm
Suggested Admission: Adults/Children 13 and over $4.00; Children 12 and under are free

If you're looking for something a bit more colorful, The Toonseum has some great exhibits, as well as lectures and workshops. The Toonseum is comic-centric, covering classic through contemporary comic illustration. You could find everything from development drafts to finished panels on exhibit. The museum recently begam an international series, hosting Enrique Salteri for a lecture on South American cartooning. Plans for upcoming lectures and screenings will explore the stop-motion innovations of Russian animator Ladislaw Starewicz, modern Polish animation, and the effects of German Expressionism in American art and popular culture.

Release your inner nerd at Geek TV Night, begun in August. The evening is a weekly get together, celebrating all things geeky about television. The evening includes screenings of geeky animations and TV shows, geek trivia games, and a chance to compare Androids. Geek TV Night will finish off the evening with a screening of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The screenings are open to all ages and are donation-only. Come and go as you like, with shows beginning on the half-hour. Family friendly programming will be presented from 7-8:30pm.

For more on the Toonseum, read our interview with executive director Joe Wos.

Wood Street Gallery

601 Wood Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 471-5605
Hours: Wed to Thurs 11am-6pm; Fri to Sat 11am-8pm; Sun 11am-5pm

Technology based art is the hallmark of Wood Street Gallery, which exhibits internationally acclaimed artists. The exhibits cross disciplines, marrying video, light and sound with installation for provocative presentations. A recent exhibit, Parallel, Universe, investigated the development of duel technologies that run parallel and never overlap but share a common goal.

Best Of Pittsburgh Screen Shot - 300x225

Head to CBS Pittsburgh's Best Of page for more local tips on family fun, shopping, nightlife, food, culture and more!

Susan Constanse is a painter, living and working in Pittsburgh. Examples of her work can be viewed on her site, at

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