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Business & Developmentby Fern Shen12:04 pmMay 6, 20190

Images from the end of steelmaking at Sparrows Point

A new photo show at the Baltimore Museum of Industry looks at the impact of the 2012 closure of the former Bethlehem Steel mill on the city

Above: “Pete at The Moose.” From “SHUTTERED: Images from the fall of Bethlehem Steel” at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. (J.M. Giordano)

What do you do when the only lifestyle you’ve ever known – an industrial lifestyle passed down by family, friends and coworkers for generations – goes up in smoke?

That’s one of the questions that will follow visitors as they explore a new exhibition that focuses on the Bethlehem Steel mill at Sparrows Point, which operated just outside Baltimore for over a century – and during the 1950s and 1960s, was the single largest steel mill in the world.

“After decades of working in the mills, these people had the carpet pulled out from under them,” said photojournalist J.M Giordano, who started the project photographing retired steelworkers as a reporter for the Dundalk Eagle.

The steelmaking furnaces at Sparrows Point. (J.M. Giordano)

Steelmaking furnaces at Sparrows Point. (J.M. Giordano)

The grandson of a steelworker, Giordano has spent more than 15 years capturing the impact of the mill’s decline and closure on his hometown.

The result is “Shuttered: Images from the fall of Bethlehem Steel,” opening at the Baltimore Museum of Industry this Wednesday and running through April 2020.

The exhibition by the former Baltimore City Paper photo editor is divided into four areas: the mill, workers, the union and the community.

Mark Reutter’s book, Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the rise and ruin of America’s industrial might, and his coverage of the mill’s final days in The Brew, including this analysis:

Six reasons why the Sparrows Point steel mill collapsed (5/25/12)
When the mill was thrown into bankruptcy in May 2012 by its final owner, billionaire Ira Rennert, it displaced thousands of workers, who lost most of the pensions, health care and other benefits they had been promised.

Much of the labor force never recovered from the loss of the steady and well-paying jobs that the mill once offered.

“For a museum that is focused on work, this exhibition is an opportunity to look at what happens when there is an absence of work, and what impact that has on a community,” BMI curator Joseph Abel said of the show.

“The loss of steel jobs in Baltimore was devastating,” Abel said. “And we continue to see the effects today in the form of long-term joblessness, substance abuse, and economic despair.”

House a mile from the former Sparrows Point steel mill. 2018. (J.M. Giordano)

House near the former Sparrows Point mill in 2018. (J.M. Giordano)

“Shuttered: Images from the fall of Bethlehem Steel”

Baltimore Museum of Industry
1415 Key Highway
Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Mondays and some holidays
Adult $12, senior $9, student $7, child six and under free
410-727-4808 http://www.thebmi.org/ info@thebmi.org

Opening Reception: Wednesday (May 8, 2019) 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Abandoned railroad tracks at the former Sparrows Point steel mill. (J.M. Giordano)

Abandoned railroad tracks at the world’s once largest steel mill. (J.M. Giordano)

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