A converted Art Deco-style railroad terminal is now the Cincinnati Museum Center, a complex of theaters, museums and a historical library. One of the top cultural attractions in the Midwest, the center hosts more than 700 events annually. A powerfully designed special exhibit, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,” will be on display until May 7 at the Cincinnati History Museum.
Opened in 2004, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center consists of three buildings that symbolize the cornerstones of freedom: courage, cooperation and perseverance. Cincinnati’s location on the Ohio River put it at the crossroads of freedom’s journey and in the 1800s the city served as a major hub of activity on the Underground Railroad. Visitors can see multimedia presentations that explain the implications of human slavery, past, present and future. The most riveting exhibit is a circa-1830 log slave pen, complete with shackles, that was used to house slaves being shipped to auction.
Ranked “Top Art Museum for Families” by Parenting Magazine, the Cincinnati Art Museum has more than 60,000 objects spanning 6,000 years. In addition to the art of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, there are extensive galleries of Near and Far Eastern art, Native American and African art, furniture, glass, ceramics, silver, costumes and folk art. This museum houses the only collection of ancient Nabataean art outside of Jordan, the Herbert Greer French collection of old master prints, a significant collection of European and American portrait miniatures, and Cincinnati-made Rookwood pottery. “Andrew Wyeth Watercolors and Drawings” is a special exhibit that will be on display from Feb. 3 until May 6.
The William Howard Taft National Historic Site commemorates the only man to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and President of the United States. Today, visitors touring his restored birthplace see four period rooms reflecting Taft family life, and second-floor exhibits that highlight his career. Don’t miss the animatronic figure of the president’s son, Charlie Taft, who tells family anecdotes. Noteworthy specialty museums include the Cincinnati Fire Museum, German Heritage Museum, Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, Taft Museum of Art and Cincinnati Sign Museum.
Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the pyramid-shaped building that houses the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum was designed by architect I.M. Pei. Inside are state-of-the-art displays of costumes and memorabilia from hundreds of bands, performers and behind the scenes personnel. Area specialty museums include the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society Museum, the International Women’s Air & Space Museum and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection is currently closed to the public during a $258 million renovation and expansion.
The National First Ladies’ Historic Site consists of two buildings. The museum is located in the childhood home of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley. It documents the lives and accomplishments of America’s First Ladies and other women important in American history. Nearby, the National First Ladies’ Library was an official project of Save America’s Treasures in 1997. The lower level now houses a Victorian theater where special programs are held. The main level has a room with restorations of the original skylight and a portion of the original glass-block floor. It’s used for meetings, receptions and special exhibits. Also on the first floor is a small library with a collection offering information about first ladies for everyone from schoolchildren to serious scholars. This library also houses a collection of books that replicates the first White House Library, which was created by Abigail Fillmore. Special attractions include the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.