Museum Avenue

A blog about life in the museum world.

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Celebrating 5 Years at Cincinnati Museum Center

I know it is hard to believe, but today is my five-year anniversary (work-iversary, work-anniversary, whatever) at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. In the last five years I have been apart of some of the most amazing blockbuster exhibits ever traveled. I’ve been knee-deep in Gold, lived in an underwater archaeologist’s dream with Cleopatra and relived the final hours of Pompeii. I’ve stood in awe at one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of all time – the Dead Sea Scrolls and celebrated the life of Princess Diana. 

When I started five years ago, I had 65% of a bachelor’s degree completed and Union Terminal had been just approved to go onto the fall ballot for an operating levy for the upkeep of Union Terminal. I had just moved to Cincinnati and did not fully comprehend the importance and magnitude of the building. My how we have come full circle. Not only have I completed my Bachelor of Arts in History, but am 60% done with a Master of Arts in Museum Studies with a target completion date of May 2015, and Hamilton County Commissioners again voted to allow us to be on the ballot this fall, but this time for the full restoration of Union Terminal.

I am blessed to have terrific colleagues and a team that is relentless, passionate and fun, and am proud to call Union Terminal my home. I would not have gotten here without the support (before and after moving to Cincinnati) that I have gotten from many of my friends from the Indiana State Museum. Everyone I have met in my museum career thus far has taught me something that I will remember forever.

Thank you!





The two bridges I use the most, the Clay Wade Bailey on the left and the Brent Spence Bridge on the right.

I cross the Ohio River every day. Living in Kentucky, or as I refer to it, Cincinnati’s South Side, and working in Ohio, means at minimum two crossings a day. If I have lunch in Kentucky, or have errands to run those crossings can increase. There are times where it is easier to get to where I’m going in Kentucky by going into Ohio and back into Kentucky. I’ve always taken these crossings for granted until a recent experience at the National Under ground Railroad Freedom Center.

I attended the artist panel discussion for their new exhibition And Still We Rise which surveys 400 years of African-American history through 85 quilts. It is the largest exhibition of African-American quilts ever assembled. Seven of the quilters shared their processes and inspiration into making some of the quilts on exhibit. Each quilt tells a unique story including a quilt that talks about the slave pier in New Amsterdam, “Pier 11,” to a quilt dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.

The quilt that moved me the most was the quilt dedicated to Underground Railroad conductor Levi Coffin. Now, I know what you guys are thinking, “Of course Marcus would be moved by the Levi Coffin quilt, Levi’s UR station was in Indiana.” It was more than that I promise. It was the discussion that ensued around the hardships that slaves faced when attempting to escape for freedom. The Ohio River was the boundary between slave and free states and to cross it was the first step toward gaining freedom. I realized at that moment that I cross that same river every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and I take that for granted. For many African-Americans before me crossing the Ohio River was the difference between slavery and freedom. For me it is simply the difference between going to work and coming home, and this is how far we have come in 150 years.


Levi Coffin: President of the Underground Railroad
Cynthia Lockhart
Cincinnati, OH

One of the quilters on the panel said that these quilts chronicle “where we’ve been, where we’re heading, and what work there is still to do.” While there is still work to do, I’m going to take my simple crossings of the Ohio River a little less for granted from now on.

Have you had a similar eye-opening experience at a museum? Where was it, and what did you realize?

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Joe Louis Fist

Joe Louis Fist

Hi everybody! In case you missed it, the city of Detroit has been going through some tough times. In 1960, Detroit was the fifth most populated city in America, but has tumbled to just inside the top twenty today.  As Detroit struggles to make ends meet they are looking at many ways to bridge the financial gap and are considering options involving the vast collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts to possibly help pay the bills.

Recently, the Association of Art Museum Curators decided to move their 2014 annual conference to Detroit to support the Detroit Institute of Arts. Emily Ballew Neff, President of the AAMC is quoted as saying, “We believe that moving our conference to the DIA affirms our support of one of the most outstanding museum collections in the world (AAMC).” What I was most impressed to learn is that “the DIA covers 658,000 square feet that includes more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium, a 380-seat lecture/recital hall, an art reference library, and a state-of-the-art conservation services laboratory (DIA).”

So consider this your public service announcement. Support our brother and sister museums in Detroit! I am inspired by this move by the AAMC to do my part and visit the DIA in the near future. I can say from personal experience that if you have not visited The Henry Ford it is a must see museum! The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is worth a visit as well, as is the Michigan Science Center – new home to my former Vice President at Cincinnati Museum Center Dr. Tonya Matthews who will be their new President and CEO starting in a few weeks.

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A museum for UFOs? Sure. A museum about the scintillating history of barbed wire? Why not? You can even visit a museum of dedicated to Bad Art right outside the men’s room of an early 20th century theater! There are several thousand museums in the United States, and most of them focusing on Art, History, Nature, Science, or providing children a place to learn through play, but there are also quite a few museums, that… well… don’t really fit very neatly in any of those categories. While I would love to wax poetic on the amazing exhibitions at the Trash Museum,  I cannot, but I would like to tell you about a museum I visited while in France.

Le Musée International de la Chaussure

Le Musée International de la Chaussure

In 1992, I was an exchange student and spent three weeks in Southern France. During these three weeks, my other exchange classmates and I attended school, and of course had field trips to museums. One of our day excursions took us to the beautiful city of Romans-sur-Isère where the hottest attractions are the Church of St. Barnard and Le Musée International de la Chaussure – yes, you read that right: The International Museum of Shoes. This museum showcases footwear from five continents and spans thousands of years of history. We learned that different shoes had different purposes and helped early peoples conquer various terrains. We also got to see more glamorous shoes, gem-encrusted high-heels fit for a queen and shoes worn by many French historical figures. The museum proving that indeed, shoes often do make the person.

What is your unique museum experience? Shoes? Trash? The National Museum of Funeral History?


Welcome to Museum Avenue, a new blog about the world of museums from a unique perspective – mine! Many of you know me from Special ExhiBITs where I shared my thoughts on exhibits from museums across the eastern United States. Now in Museum Avenue I will share my thoughts on a whole host of subjects pertinent to museum life. Be sure to visit about me and about Museum Avenue for more information.

Many of you are probably wondering why I would choose a random Wednesday to launch a new blog, but today is a special Wednesday. Today I begin a new chapter in my museum career by beginning my masters degree in Museum Studies with Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Programs. Not so random now, huh? Read my blog post about being accepted into the JHU family. GO HOP!

Check back early and check back often as I add new content.

Are you a museum blogger? Let me know as I am looking for new museoblogs to follow!