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Smithsonian Institution, Bethlehem Steel Sign Agreement To Loan Industrial Artifacts to New Museum

BETHLEHEM, Pa., Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Bethlehem Steel Corporation and the Smithsonian Institution have signed a memorandum of understanding that could lead to the long-term lending of hundreds of the Smithsonian Institution's industrial artifacts to a new, not-for-profit museum corporation, the National Museum of Industrial History, to be located here.

"This is the first formal step toward the possible establishment of a museum of American industrial history here in Bethlehem. The museum would be independent, but would have an affiliation with the Smithsonian and rely upon it as the major source of industrial artifacts," said Curtis "Hank" Barnette, Bethlehem Steel's chairman and chief executive officer.

Mr. Barnette explained that, following the successful completion of a feasibility study, another agreement would detail the specifics of such a museum including the relationship with the Smithsonian, artifacts to be loaned to the museum, facilities to house the objects, staffing and funding. "We expect to make a final decision within a year. Bethlehem Steel would make available property, land and buildings to the museum and support its activities," he said.

This agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and Bethlehem Steel is the first in the Smithsonian's nationwide program to share its collections across America. At a news conference held this morning in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman said:

"This understanding between the Smithsonian and Bethlehem Steel is the first of many such cooperative arrangements. The long-term loans of objects will allow the Smithsonian to fulfill its goal of becoming a truly national institution. The Smithsonian holds more than 140 million objects in trust for the American people. I want them to see these treasures where they live, not just in our museums."

The proposed museum at Bethlehem Works would initially occupy 160,000 square feet in three buildings where Bethlehem Steel produced alloy and tool steels. Mr. Barnette said the site is part of Bethlehem Steel's local plant that made the steel that "helped build, defend and transport America in the last century and for virtually all of this century."

He noted that this new venture represents opportunity, historical significance and cooperation in a public-private partnership. The Steel leader said, "it is an opportunity to demonstrate that the horizon of change need not limit our vision of what the future can be."

In early 1996, Bethlehem Steel sold its first major structure on the site -- its former plant office building -- to Lehigh University for the relocation and expansion of the University's SMART Discovery Center. In late 1996, Enterprise Development Corporation was retained by Bethlehem to develop a master plan for the property and to help attract investors. Enterprise Development, founded by the late James Rouse and now chaired by Robert F. Barron, Jr., has extensive experience in redeveloping urban and former industrial sites.

Bethlehem Steel's chairman pointed to three key developments -- Governor Ridge's Brownfields initiative in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the rezoning of the Bethlehem Works site by Bethlehem City Council and Secretary Heyman's wish to share the Smithsonian collections with cities and towns across the country -- as pivotal to the advancement of the museum.

Brownfields legislation encourages buyers and sellers to consider industrial sites for new ventures. "it is possible that this effort will help set a national example of what can be done to similar industrial sites in a true public-private partnership by responsible corporations under appropriate environmental laws," Mr. Barnette said.

Speaking at today's ceremonies, Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Ridge said, "In just 18 short months, Pennsylvania's nationally acclaimed Land Recycling Program has reclaimed 64 sites -- returning them to productivity while meeting today's environmental standards. And in the coming months, I expect Bethlehem Steel will be added to that list of successes."

The rezoning by Bethlehem City Council of Bethlehem Steel's South Bethlehem complex from heavy industrial to an industrial redevelopment district, said Mr. Barnette, "was another significant action that said in this community there is a strong desire to find a way to make things work in the overall public interest."

Upon taking over the Smithsonian in September 1994, Secretary Heyman started to consider the sharing of Smithsonian collections outside of Washington, D.C. This ignited Bethlehem's interest in the industrial museum concept.

Mr. Barnette concluded, "As a good corporate citizen, we will continue to pursue with vigor this and other activities for this site in the months and years ahead. There will be much more, for we are only at the beginning of what is a very promising public-private partnership."

SOURCE Bethlehem Steel
 -0- 02/28/97


/EDITORS' ADVISORY: Bethlehem Steel will feed video B-roll footage of Bethlehem Works and representative Smithsonian exhibits via satellite from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. (EST) on Friday, February 28. The feed will be on satellite SBS6, transponder 9; downlink horizontal at 11921 Mhz. Total time of B-roll is four minutes.

/CONTACT: Bette Kovach of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, 610-694-6308, or Vicki Moeser of Smithsonian Institution, 202-357-2627, ext. 111/

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Date:Feb 28, 1997
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