Have you ever noticed two dark squares in the mural on Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s grand staircase?
When you’re taking in the grandeur of three stories of paintings that make up The Crowning of Labor mural the squares are easy to miss.
In the small squares, the paintings colors are darker and less vibrant because they’re covered in a thick layer of soot – a relic from Pittsburgh’s smoggy past.
Pittsburgh was famous for its bad air quality, a result of steel mills that made the city prosperous for decades. Their effects were known to blacken school children’s white uniforms, the façade of buildings, and even art. The entire mural was dark and obscured by soot until it was restored in 1995, by a team of Carnegie art conservators.
The conservators left a small piece of unrestored painting on the second and third floors, as a reminder of Pittsburgh’s past and of the work it took to preserve this amazing piece of art.