About the Exhibition
Standing hundreds of feet above the ground on the frames of New York City skyscrapers is not the easiest way to make a living. Mohawk Indian ironworkers say that "walking iron" gives them great pride. These ironworkers share their stories of strength in a new Smithsonian traveling exhibition.
The NCSU Libraries is hosting Booming Out: Mohawk Ironworkers Build New York between April 23 and June 19, 2005. Installed on the mezzanine of the D. H. Hill Library, the exhibition is free and open to the public.
Booming Out was developed by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian's George Heye Center and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The exhibition, its national tour, and related programs are made possible by the AMB Foundation.
"The Mohawk Indians have an inspiring and important story that the National Museum of the American Indian is proud to be a part of," says W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne), director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Mohawk ironworkers have been "booming out" for six generations. "Booming out" is a Mohawk expression used to describe the urban migration of the Mohawk ironworkers as they leave their native communities in New York State, Ontario, Quebec and Montreal in search of work. One of the earliest projects the Mohawks completed was a bridge over the St. Lawrence River, between Canada and Mohawk land in New York State. The Mohawks have constructed portions of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge and the World Trade Center in New York City. Mohawks on the West Coast in the 1930s constructed the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
Booming Out contains black-and-white and color photographs and photo-murals featuring Mohawk Indians "walking iron." Many of these photographs were taken by the ironworkers themselves. The exhibit also includes a sculpture created by Darryl Pronovost (Mohawk) using metal recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center during the clean-up at Ground Zero.
Kyle Karonhiaktatie Beauvais, a Mohawk ironworker, says, "A lot of people think Mohawks aren't afraid of heights; that's not true. We have as much fear as the next guy. The difference is that we deal with it better. We also have the experience of old timers to follow and the responsibility to lead the younger guys. There's pride in walking iron."