Steel Museum renovates archive library

By Christopher Gillett

The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor has renovated its archive library. Repainting the walls, recarpeting the floors and refurbishing the rooms, the museum hopes to reinvigorate the history inside.

The archive library’s wall was repainted salmon orange, keeping to the architect’s original drawings. Additional painting will be done in the archive library hall in the following weeks. The floor’s carpeting color was changed from light beige to a textured gray. 

Martha Bishop, the YHCIL archives library assistant, has worked for the steel museum for several years. Bishop said the colors of the library were chosen to imitate those of a steel mill.

“The grays and the shades of salmon orange were chosen because they represent images and imagery from the mill settings,” Bishop said.

The YHCIL opened 30 years ago to record and teach Youngstown’s industrial and local history. The archive library is on the top floor and open to the public.

The archive library is not a lending library. Instead, it makes copies of historical documents for research or personal use. Bishop said the archives hold a variety of reference books, periodicals, journals and audio-visual materials.

“We are a repository for local government records,” Bishop said. “It’s for a six-county region that covers Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Caroll, Harrison and Jefferson counties. When the counties are not able to maintain or store their permanent registers from the various departments, they then send them here to the repository for safe keeping.”

Thomas Leary, a retired Youngstown State University history professor who is now a consultant at the YHCIL, explained how historians and researchers use archive library documents.

“There are a number of sources in there for research on both the history of the steel industry and communities that were impacted by the rise and fall of the steel industry that I found particularly valuable,” Leary said. “I’m trying to reconstruct the history of a particular occupation. There were a group of workmen known as puddlers and what they basically did was take pig iron from a blast furnace and refine it into wrought iron.”

The steel museum and its archive library work with the Center for Applied History and YSU’s history department. Marcelle Wilson, the site manager for the YHCIL, explained the museum’s relationships with them.

“They provide for me and some of the other staff, and they provide our students as well as our interns,” Wilson said.

The YHCIL is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 12 to 4 p.m. by special appointment. The archive library opens at noon on the same days. During the academic year, the museum is open Thursdays until 7 p.m. 

If interested in learning what the YHCIL has in its collection, visit the Ohio History Connection online catalog on the Ohio History Connection website. Items listed with the prefix “YHC” are available at the YHCIL collection. A link to the YHCIL archive library’s online collections can also be found on its website.

If interested in donating historical materials to the YHCIL, contact Marcelle Wilson at or call (330) 941-1413.