Closing Crucible

Midland is a small town an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa., five minutes from the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and right on the Ohio River. Its 12 blocks are now relatively quiet, but 50 years ago, it was a bustling town with frequent traffic jams. What caused the change?

A steel mill closed.

I am currently working on an oral history project for my senior thesis on the closing of the Crucible steel mill and its effects on the communities of Midland, Ohioville and Industry. The interviews look at what the area was like in Crucible’s heyday, in the early 1980s when layoffs started and the mill shut down, and the present. Interviewees include/will include mill workers, church-goers, school board members, business owners and every-day residents.

I’d like to create a website, most likely on Omeka, to present these oral histories. The transcripts and recordings are going into the archives of the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation, where I’m sure they will receive little attention. Creating a site for the oral histories makes them accessible to a broad range of people. This includes not only history enthusiasts and researchers, but also educators and students.

The site will hopefully include audio files of the interviews, transcripts, photos  of the area during the heyday and shut down, as well as some recent photos. The BCHRLF also has some great photos of the mill being built in 1905 that could possibly be digitized and added to the site to give historical context.

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area has a site with oral histories on steel workers in the Pittsburgh area, but there is only one interview about Crucible. The entire interview and the transcript were not available online, or at least I couldn’t find them. Youngstown State University has a section of Crucible oral histories in its online library catalogue, but only the transcripts are available and they’re rather dated – from the late 1980s. All of these oral histories are focused on actually working in the mill instead of the community surrounding the mill.

This site will increase knowledge on local history, make it more accessible, and hopefully encourage teachers to use the material in the classroom. A lot of my interest for this project comes from the fact that growing up in Ohioville, I never really knew about Crucible. I heard a few stories about my uncle blowing black soot from his nose when he came home from work because he worked in the blast furnace, but that was it. I never knew that my school district was created because of the mill and that its enrollment has been decreasing because the mill closed. When my high school history teachers talked about steel mills they talked about Pittsburgh, but never mentioned the fact that there was another steel mill 10 minutes away from our school and that we all probably knew someone who worked there. But with this online archive of oral histories, that could all change. Just because Crucible closed doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

3 Replies to “Closing Crucible”

  1. Omeka is a great option for this kind of project. I would suggest taking a quick look at what Zach Coble did with an audio collection in Omeka for the KOPN Reel-To-Reel Project website http://kopn.us/r2r/ and the http://braceroarchive.org/ is a great example of an online oral history project from CHNM that runs on Omeka. I would suggest looking at items in both of these sites to get an idea about the kind of metadata you want to collect and include.

    A key consideration here, if you do use the hosted version of Omeka, that is omeka.net, you are going to need to think about how to make sure that you have enough file storage space. It is likely going to be a good idea to consider significantly compressing the audio files so that you do not run out of space on the free account.

    I would also seriously suggest considering working in the contribution plugin. Which would enable you to collect and solicit additional stories via the website. This plugin works very similar to the September 11th Digital Archive we will talk about tonight.

    In short, this is a fantastic idea. It is great that you have a preservation home for the collection, but it will really mean a lot to make this content accessible too.

    IMHO For the purpose of this project, the most important thing is that you get all of the pieces in place. You decide on what theme you are using, get all of the parts in place and have a few items in the collection that represent what you will ultimately fill it up with. That way, when you are actually doing the collecting the site is ready to go for you to fill up with the rest of the content.

  2. My Dad started working at Crucible when he got out of ELHS in 1942. He served in WWII and returned. That is the only job he had until he retired in 1982.

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