History Objects and Fine Art Collections
Posted On: 01/26/2018 - 11:12am, Posted By: David Conzett, Curator of History Objects & Fine Art
The Cincinnati History Department of Cincinnati Museum Center actively collects, preserves and interprets historical objects and fine art pertaining to the social, cultural, economic and political history of Greater Cincinnati and the tri-state area of Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana. In the past twenty five years the museum’s collection has grown to more than 45,000 objects and works of art. Specific collections include personal and household artifacts, architecture, items from Cincinnati business and industry, communications, science and technology, and transportation, as well as education, religion, recreation and fine art.
The CMC History Museum has only actively collected objects for twenty five years, but a significant collection has been assembled; CMC is the only regional repository for the material culture of Greater Cincinnati region. The focus of the collection has gradually evolved to reflect a broad social history of Cincinnati and to accurately mirror the diverse nature of the city and region’s audiences. The department endeavors to collect historic artifacts and fine art that represent local businesses and industry, ethnic and cultural minorities, reform organizations, sports clubs, and other civic organizations. The collections are gradually becoming broad-based and reflective of the community at large.
Although the Cincinnati Historical Society component of Cincinnati Museum Center has been in existence since 1831, its collection primarily focused on printed and archival materials, including historic books, letters and documents. A concerted effort to collect the material culture of the greater Cincinnati region began when plans were made to establish a history museum at Cincinnati Union Terminal in 1986. In 2001 the History Object Collection was moved from the Museum Center to the new Geier Collections and Research Center, a 70,000 sq. foot storage facility, located near Cincinnati Museum Center. Small history objects and fine art were arranged in a 5,063 square foot second floor storeroom. Large industrial objects and vehicles were stored in a 4,039 square foot space on the building’s lower level. In 2016 a mobile compact storage system was installed on the second floor of the Geier Collection Center for the storage of the large history object collections. Additional storage racks were also installed fort the fine art collection. The History Object Collection has grown from a relatively modest collection of approximately 8,000 artifacts and works of art in 1989 to more than 45,000 artifacts and works of art.
Uniform of Noah Johnson, US Army, 3rd Infantry Division.
Collection Components & Strengths
Fine Art. This collection contains more than 1,000 original oil paintings, watercolors, engravings, etchings, sculpture, carvings and limited edition prints, which document the history of the city and region. Subject matter includes landscapes, cityscapes, historic buildings and structures, special events and portraits of Cincinnatians.
Nature Art. This collection is dominated by the work of local artists and documents their influence on the culture of Greater Cincinnati. The subject matter may or may not be local but always represents nature and natural history themes. The collection had its origin in the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History.
Historic Clothing. High fashion and everyday dress of the past 175 years is represented in the CMC Historic Clothing Collection. The collection consists of women and men’s formal attire, wedding dresses, military uniforms, fashion accessories and everyday clothing.
Furniture. Southwest Ohio was home to a number of furniture manufacturers throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Early Cincinnati manufacturers often specialized in a particular type of furniture, and several manufacturers and styles of furniture are represented in the collection.
Industrial Objects. From a few machine shops and foundries in 1840, Cincinnati grew to become the world leader in the production of machine tools by 1910. Early machine tool companies often specialized in a particular type of machine, and many of these companies and their machines are represented in the CMC collection.
Science & Technology. The medical collection consists of hundreds of 20th century instruments, surgical kits, microscopes, testing devices, dental instruments and accessories. S&T artifacts also include surveying and navigation instruments (compasses, timepieces, surveyor’s levels and sextants), measuring devices, a variety of scales and balances, as well as experimental scientific pieces.
Brewing Industry. Brewing, like other food service related industries, is represented through a number of artifacts in several classifications. Several hundred beer bottles in the collection reflect the various periods of production and the more than one hundred breweries that operated in Cincinnati in the past. The collection also contains beer barrels, brewery and tavern glassware, advertising trays, decorative signs, lithograph illustrations, as well as brewing and testing equipment.
Communications. A broad artifact category, including all forms of sound communication, photography, written communication and printing, communications is one of the largest and most diverse collections in the History Objects Department.