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‘Fire & Shadow’ Exhibition Pays Tribute to Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore

1978 aerial photo with Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces in Sparrows Point | Image courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry

When Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point Mill went bankrupt in 2002, it caused more than economic devastation. It shook a generation that came up in the era of steel as king — now forced to have pensions and retiree benefits cut after decades of dedication.

When it closed in 2012, thousands more were affected by job loss, including hundreds of smaller companies and close-knit Baltimore communities sustained by the mill.

The newest exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, “Fire & Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Bethlehem Steel,” opening Friday, Sept. 24, focuses on bringing life to those stories behind Bethlehem Steel, which was once the world’s largest producer of steel.

Image from ‘Fire and Shadow’ exhibition, Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point | Image courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry

Interwoven with the mill’s 125-year history are items provided by the workers themselves, such as workplace IDs and flame-resistant clothing, old and new photographs and personal narratives in their own words.

“This exhibition was made possible by Baltimore’s steel community, whose members graciously donated artifacts, shared stories and helped fill in the human aspect to this story of industrial might,” said Anita Kassof, the museum’s executive director, in a news release.

Contributions from these individuals will be on display in the exhibit during museum hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. A limited number of tickets are available for purchase online or at the museum.

This exhibit is the capstone for a multiyear effort to document and preserve the history of the mill and its workers: the Bethlehem Steel Legacy Project. That project, made possible by the Davis Family Foundation and Tradepoint Atlantic, a 3,250-acre global logistics center at the site of the former mill, details the mill’s history through contributions that include a podcast, an outdoor exhibition, a blog series and a legacy garden.

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