Shaping Our City explores how rivers, rails and roads have shaped and defined our region over the centuries.

Transportation has spurred and been spurred by innovation, which Shaping Our City showcases through a selection of vehicles, maps, objects and interactive elements. As much as transportation has provided access, it has also impaired access. One of the questions the gallery examines is how Cincinnati’s urban design has both connected and divided the city and its people.

Shaping Our City begins with a birch-bark canoe of the style used by Indigenous Peoples navigating the Ohio, Little Miami and Licking rivers from 1700-1810. Additional artifacts highlight the importance of rivers as early trade and transportation routes, leading to both Native American and white settlement of the region. Train and steam boat models and steam whistles bring the era of early steam travel to life. The period from 1860 to 1920 saw residents expand out of the river basin, climbing the surrounding hills with inclines and streetcars. CMC’s orange streetcar punctuates this hub, with video and audio that recreates three different Cincinnati streetcar trips in the 1910s, 30s and 40s.

Shaping Our City also charts the city’s efforts to centralize transit in the first half of the 20th century, including the building of Union Terminal. A vintage Crosley Super Station Wagon and photos from CMC’s Kenyon Barr collection tell the story of how car culture has changed the landscape of our city and its neighborhoods, most notably through the construction of highway I-75.

As transportation continues to change, this exhibition challenges guests to anticipate how autonomous vehicles, scooters, bike shares, ride shares and other choices we’re making today will continue to shape our city.