Marketing the Machine Age: Industrial Archaeology and Heritage Tourism in America’s "Rust Belt"
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5. Detail of Iron Bridge, built 1777-8, Ironbridge, Shropshire, England.

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6. Iron furnace complex, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. (Illustration: NPS)



7. AIHP logo. (Illustration: NPS)

8. AIHP Region, the project encompasses Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Huntington, Indiana, Somerset and Westmoreland counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. (Illustration: NPS)

     Such efforts are by no means new; sites like Ironbridge Gorge in England, Engelsberg Ironworks in Sweden, and, in this country, Sagus Iron works and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Sties have long attracted the attention of historians, archeologists and preservationists. What distinguishes the current focus on industrial sites is an increase in both the extent and the breadth of this interest. These projects, in conjunction with more traditional preservation and interpretive initiatives, have given rise to what has been termed a ‘heritage industry’ (Hewison 1987)2.

Involvement of archeologists in such projects will increasingly demand that we reflect on the role we play in fashioning the view of the past that emerges from these projects. While interest in the presentation of archeological data to the public is by no means new to the field, the new climate will necessitate that the issue be accorded a more central role in our work-- and in our thinking. Unlike traditional compliance and academically oriented archeology, where the issue of public interpretation is all to often an implicit rather than an explicit concern, ‘heritage’ projects thrust this issue to the forefront.

In recent years the National Park Service has become involved in more than its share of these initiatives. Some of these projects involve the creation of new units within the Federal park system, while for others the National Park Service has functioned in the role of technical advisor to other organizations.

In this paper I will discuss aspects of two such projects. In 1988 Congress created the Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission under the Department of the Interior. The Commission's mandate is to develop partnerships between federal, state and local governments, in cooperation with private entities, which share an interest in the economic revitalization of a nine-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania through the preservation and interpretation of regional cultural and natural resources. This broad and ambitious initiative, initially dubbed America's Industrial Heritage Project and currently referred to as the Path of Progress, is guided by the Commission, which coordinates the efforts of its disparate partners. The Commission’s specific mandate is the development of facilities to interpret sites relating to coal mining, iron and steel making, transportation, and allied industrial themes.