Marketing the Machine Age: Industrial Archaeology and Heritage
Tourism in America’s "Rust Belt"


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1. Detail from Colbroookdale by Night. P. J. de Loutherbourg's 1801 painting captures the ambivalent wonder that England's emerging industrial landscape evoked. (Original in the Science Museum, London)

     Pundits tell us that sometime during the last several decades the economies of North America and Western Europe crossed a critical rubicon. The social and economic landscapes of these countries, fashioned in the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, have now, we are told, entered a 'post-industrial' era1. Basic fabrication and extractive industries, once dominant forces driving the economy, are rapidly taking on a secondary role. Residents of the smokestack communities associated with this now sputtering economic engine are struggling with the wrenching disruption and dislocation of this economic watershed. In vast areas of Europe and North America detritus of the waning industrial era litters the landscape. Crumbling factories, rusting machinery, abandoned mines and aging factory towns dot the country side; standing as increasingly anachronistic reminders of a declining way of life.

    Ironically, as the contours of this emerging post-industrial economy become more evident, there is a concomitant awakening of interest in, and celebration of, the industrial past. In Europe and America, diverse groups of individuals and institutions, motivated by a multiplicity of interests, are grappling with the problems of preserving, interpreting, and, above all, understanding the industrial past and its physical manifestations.

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2. Inactive coal mine, Windber, PA, 1994. (Photo: J. Levin)

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3. Feed mill, Saltsburg, PA, 1994. (Photo: J. Levin)

4. Abandoned mill, Billerica, MA, early 20th century photograph.