By Samantha Smith
Youngstown State University professor Thomas Leary is partnering with the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor to research through the curation 2 art course the cokemaking process within steel mills. The final project will be presented in an online exhibit through the YHCIL website at the end of the semester.
Coke is the product of heating coal in reduced oxygen conditions. It’s traditionally used for smelting iron ore, as fuel for blacksmithing and more. The curation course requires the students to learn about and research this process with the eventual goal to teach others about cokemaking in the steel industry.
Brooke Bobovynik, second semester grad student majoring in history, explains what will be in the exhibit.
“It basically talks about two past methods [of cokemaking],” Bobovynik said. “We talk about beehive coke ovens, what they are, how they were constructed and then we give some examples … then for by-product, we talk about what the by-product coke plants are, why they were used and how they’re different.”
Each student has their own part in the project, such as researching past workers and collecting site documentation, archived video and more.
Thomas Leary, professor of the course, explains the pros of the virtual exhibit.
“The virtual exhibit that the class is putting together will be able to present — to a wider audience than just people who visit the museum here — a topic in a format that I think more and more people are becoming familiar with,” he said.
Jacob Harver, second-semester graduate student in the American studies program, talked about the historical importance of the project, especially for the city of Youngstown.
“You can really trace the history of Youngstown as a city and industrial center through the fuel for iron blast furnaces,” Harver said. “It started off with charcoal and then coal — especially Brier Hill coal, which was renowned for being such a pure source of fuel — and then it led into cokemaking. You’re really tracing the city of Youngstown through that as well and the dominance of the steel industry here. It was a big part of that story and so we’re hoping to document it.”
Brooke Bobovnyik, Jacob Harver, Hannah Klacik and Brian Pete are the students involved in the project.
For more information about the upcoming exhibit, visit the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor’s website under exhibits and projects.