Activist community

Museums are community anchors that unite people

A few years ago, a team from the University of Cincinnati calculated the economic impact of the Cincinnati Museum Center: $114 million per year for our community. Impressive, but that doesn’t quite reflect the true impact of museums. A wide range of research has shown that when people reflect on their museum experiences, they overwhelmingly describe an increased sense of well-being and curious excitement.

In 2012, the Cincinnati Museum Center was accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a recognition of CMC’s organizational excellence based on the strength of its collections, its curatorial and research staff, guest experience, and its ambitious vision of growth. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was also recognized as a leader in the industry, receiving accreditation in 2014. And, just this week, both institutions received reaccreditation in the 10-year standard review. It is a testament to the work of both institutions and a reminder of their value to our community and its well-being.

Museums have the power to shape and reflect their communities. They are community anchors that unite people. Museums invite you into our shared history, create a collective heritage and ignite passion for our future. Museums preserve our history – as a city, as a region, as a nation – and invite more people to tell that story so that it accurately reflects the diversity of our history. Museums are essential partners for our schools and universities and are powerful extensions for different types of learning.

In addition, museums offer a laboratory where scientific concepts explode at your fingertips. What may be static on the pages of a science book expands to fill a gallery that brings chemistry, physics and aerodynamics to life.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center received accreditation in 2014 and in March 2022 received reaccreditation in the 10-year standard review.

Above all, museums do not look back. Museums are forward-looking institutions that use the past to inform the future. Museums are for dreamers and doers. Those who can imagine a world beyond their wildest dreams and are inspired to make it a reality. They inspire explorers and entrepreneurs, advocates and activists. They show us how far we’ve come and what we’re capable of. They are the cradle of the next great innovations and the genesis of a fairer society.

Museums are a safe space for dialogue, a place to face these difficult moments in history with humility, without judgment or fear. They provide space to be vulnerable, to feel supported, to be informed, to grow. The difficult issues of systemic racism, educational inequality, the impacts of poverty, and environmental destruction are brought forward with the hope that current and new generations can be brought to fight them.

Above all, museums are for everyone. The work that the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Freedom Center do is too important not to be shared with everyone. That’s why philanthropic partners help CMC and the Freedom Center provide learning experiences for families and schools in need. These programs remove all financial barriers to visitation to ensure that everyone can visit and access these nationally recognized museums. Please visit and for more details on these programs.

With two local museums recognized by the American Alliance of Museums (and a host of other award-winning museums across the city), Cincinnati has invaluable resources to educate, inspire, and propel our community forward for current and future generations. .

Elizabeth Pierce is president and CEO of the Cincinnati Museum Center. Woodrow Keown, Jr. is president and chief operating officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Elizabeth Pierce, President and CEO, Cincinnati Museum Center
Woodrow Keown