Andrew Carnegie rose from humble beginnings in Scotland to become one of America's most famous philanthropists. From his first job at 13 in a cotton mill to his position as head of The Carnegie Steel Company, Carnegie remembered his path to success and determined to give back some of his wealth to help educate and enrich others. He believed that the rich had an obligation to share their wealth.
He founded several trusts and organizations for the distribution of his money. One of his special interests was the establishment of free libraries throughout the world, and he spent $56 million to build over 2,500 libraries, now known as Carnegie Libraries. He hoped to enable every citizen to better him/herself in education and fine arts. Carnegie Hall in New York was built with Carnegie funding. In all, Carnegie gave away over $350 million during his lifetime.
What is now The Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany was originally constructed in 1904 as a Carnegie-funded library. Designed in the Neo-Classical style, it was the home of the New Albany Public Library until 1969.
It was closed for two years before re-opening as an art and history museum. The building was renovated in 1998. The Carnegie Center for Art and History has received national recognition for its permanent exhibit, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad."
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Indiana has the largest number of Carnegie Libraries in the nation.