Museum Avenue

A blog about life in the museum world.

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Hi all,

Many times I am asked by friends, colleagues and family how graduate school is going. My response has centered around the fact that I’m not pulling out any of my hair or curled up into a ball crying and sucking my thumb in a corner. I am having a terrific time learning about museums at a deeper level and engaging with colleagues from around the country and around the world.

Track 12 Sign from Union Terminal - Home of Cincinnati Museum Center

Track 12 Sign from Union Terminal – Home of Cincinnati Museum Center

Although it is currently all roses for me (right now) I have identified an unintended side effect. Not only am I studying what makes museums tick, I work full-time in one of the largest and most visited museums in the country – Cincinnati Museum Center. So as I am learning more and more the first thing I want to do is implement ALL THE THINGS! From a new interpretive plan for an upcoming exhibition to evaluations to young professional program piloting, I feel compelled to try to do everything RIGHT. NOW!

I want to turn what I’m learning into professional development opportunities for my staff of rockstars and my colleagues. I want to collaborate with community partners on new, innovative programs. I want to give back to the profession by leading professional development and social connections with local emerging museum professionals. I want to do it all to exhaustion.

Now I’m frustrated. There are never enough hours in the day. One cannot work full-time, rock 6 credit hours of grad school, sleep and have time for everything. I have to pace myself and we all know how much I love that. What about you? Have you had similar frustrations?




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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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?