By Taylor Fronk
The Youngstown History Center of Industry and Labor offers more to students than just history about the area.
Site manager Marcelle Wilson said students of all majors can find something at the museum worthwhile for their studies. Students can learn about a variety of issues, such as women’s history and that of people of color.
“Women were not always doing the Rosie the Riveter work in the steel mills like we were taught. They were nurses and secretaries, too,” Wilson said.
Resources about Youngstown history can be found in the archives center on the second floor of the building. The archives are home to old newspapers, local films, photographs and anything related to the history of the steel industry in the city. Students also can access the archives catalog via the museum’s website.
Wilson said the museum is important for engaging with and educating the community about Youngstown because it helps people understand the past and appreciate the future.
“It’s important to preserve our history so people understand where we came from,” Wilson said. “Why do we have the architecture? Why do we have the different surnames in the area? Why do we have different neighborhoods? Why do we have different people living in those areas?”
Mikaela Hibbs, third-year physical and health education major, said she finds a lot of enrichment in the museum.
“My grandpa worked for Youngstown Sheet and Tube and my dad worked for Vallourec Steel,” she said. “Growing up in Youngstown, you’re not always shown what it is to be proud of where you’re from. This place gives me something to be proud of.”
As an aspiring teacher, she said it’s important to educate the next generation of students and remove the old stigma she grew up with. She said it starts with somewhere like the steel museum.
“Many people in and outside of Youngstown see the area as weak and opportunity deficient because of the mills closing, GM closed, the murder rate was the highest in the country,” she said. “We are more than our past.”
According to staff member Sarah Wiscott, the staff began working remotely when the museum was shut down in March as a result of the pandemic. Although they couldn’t welcome guests inside, they were still able to reach them online.
The facility offered #MuseumFromHome posts weekly on social media where it showcased different artifacts from the steel mills.
“I’m happy to be back. It’s definitely nicer to interact with actual people than your computer screen,” Wiscott said.
Staff members Brooke Bobovynik and Hannah Klacik also created a virtual walking tour for the architecture in downtown Youngstown in place of their annual group affair.
Marcell Wilson, site manager, said the in-person walking tours are very popular in the community every year, and the virtual tours were popular as well. Those interested can go online for a guided audio and picture tour on its YouTube channel.
Youngstown State University students get free admission to the museum, which includes access to the archives and tours. The facility is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (hours for at risk patrons are 9-10 a.m.) and Saturday from 12-4 p.m. (hours for at risk patrons are 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.).