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Cincinnati Museum Center receives Association of Midwest Museums award
Best Practices Award recognized Curate My Community, display of over 700 objects across city
CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) recently received the prestigious Best Practices Award from the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM). The competitive award, given to CMC at AMM’s annual conference, recognized CMC’s Curate My Community initiative that placed over 700 museum objects at locations across the community.
As Union Terminal prepared to undergo a two-and-a-half-year restoration, CMC temporarily closed the Museum of Natural History & Science and Cincinnati History Museum to facilitate the extensive repairs. The closure meant close to 55,000 objects would need to move from the building to safe and appropriate storage, much of it to CMC’s Geier Collections & Research Center. Rather than tucking every object away through the duration of the historic restoration, CMC used the opportunity to showcase objects in a new way and on an ambitious scale uncommon in the museum field.
“We realized we had an opportunity to redefine what a museum is and how a community experiences it,” says Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “Rather than store these incredible objects that people have grown to love and form connections with, why not find a new way to display them?”
Across 1,500 square miles at 55 unique spaces, CMC displayed over 700 collections objects, including a mastodon, polar bear, several historic cars and a 60-foot dinosaur, the first time the specimen had been publicly displayed. Host partners ranged from the University of Cincinnati and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and Rhinegeist Brewery. Each location offered visitors and opportunity to reconnect or discover for the first time an object that helps tell the story of the Greater Cincinnati region.
“These are our community’s stories, part of what makes this region unique,” says Whitney Owens, chief learning officer at Cincinnati Museum Center. “These objects tell the story of our recent and prehistoric past, covering millions of years and doing it in a way that is vivid and tangible. We’re creating connections with people in the most unexpected places who have their own layers to add to these stories.”
AMM recognized Curate My Community as a model that holds great promise for the museum field as an experiment in deep community engagement, not only for the display of objects but the programs and lectures that supplemented them. Since the program began in May 2016, CMC has created over 150 informal learning classrooms and program spaces out of library branches, industrial shops, bars and more.
“I cannot think of a more worthy recipient,” shares Greg Wittkop, director of the Cranbook Center for Collections and Research and co-chair of the award committee. “The way Cincinnati Museum Center has leveraged its temporary strategies to create a more inclusive museum moving forward into the future is really impressive.”
As the restoration of Union Terminal nears completion in November 2018, CMC will bring many of the objects back for display while others will return to the collection facility. Select objects will remain on display offsite.
Since its founding in 1927, the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) has sought to connect museums across the eight-state region of the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. It strengthens Midwest museums by providing nationally relevant, regionally specific programs, products and networking opportunities. Through its programs and activities, AMM encourages professional standards for all areas of museum administration and provides cutting-edge information and resources to museums and cultural institutions in the Midwest and the greater museum community.
About Cincinnati Museum Center
Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of a select few museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.
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