Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

The 1930s Union Railroad Terminal in Cincinnati had been closed for several years for renovations so I had never been inside it. Since 1990 it has housed the Cincinnati Museum Center, and that includes the Cincinnati History Museum.

The installation of exhibits is ongoing, so parts of the museum had an unfinished feel. Still, there was a lot to see. Unfortunately, it was the day before area schools started and it seemed like every family in Cincinnati was there. So it was a bit noisy, but how nice to see parents and kids experiencing the museums together.

The building is spectacular, with a half dome ceiling surrounded by a mural of a historic nature. I hope that the many visitors stopped to appreciate the structure itself.

The first display in the history museum was a miniature Cincinnati with train layout. This was a train station, after all. It takes the visitor back to the Cincinnati of the 1940s. Interesting, and very popular with the youngsters.

In the basement of the museum is a recreation of Cincinnati’s early days as a river city. It’s located on the Ohio River, which is still used to move freight today. But in the early days, the river was the city’s heart, and Cincinnati was the major river port in this part of the country.

These little recreated towns seem to be somewhat standard in regional history museums. I’ve been to quite a few, but this is the best experience I’ve ever had in one. Usually the visitor is left on the outside looking in through shop windows, or marginally better, behind roped off areas. But here in Cincinnati, we got to ramble through the buildings where there were enough interactives to engage even grown-ups.

Who could resist exploring a riverboat?

People across the region went to Cincinnati looking for opportunities. Here we see the imagined contents of a young woman’s trunk. We might suppose that she is looking for employment as a seamstress.  Lucky for her, Mrs. H.B. Ruggles had a dressmaking and ladies’ goods establishment nearby.

Inside the dressmaker’s shop there was this display on choosing fabrics, which is of course, where a woman started when getting a new dress in the mid nineteenth century. The presence of ready-to-wear clothing was several decades in the future. The fabrics in the display look to be good natural fiber reproductions.

The sewing machine was a new product in the mid nineteenth century, and much of the sewing continued to be done by hand. We can only imagine how excited a dressmaker would have been when she was able to add this terrific time-saver to her tools.

Exhibits of this nature seem to always be a mix of new and antique .  It’s a good way for a museum to show items from the collection, like the Godey’s Lady’s Book, that might otherwise remain in storage.

And we all appreciate a good cage crinoline.

There was a nice explanation of how a dressmaker used a paper pattern (another relatively new development) to transform the flat fabric into a three-dimensional garment.

I liked this reminder that people in the past did not just discard clothing if it became damaged.

I’d like to think that the women of Cincinnati were a bit more fashionable than this display suggests.

There were other businesses to explore, and my favorite (only because the German beer garden had no actual beer) was the photography studio. This photo was taken by placing my phone lens on the eye piece of the camera. The original was, of course, upside down.

There are other museums, including a nice one devoted to the  natural history of the region (with a “cave” to explore} to a hands-on kids’ museum. There is also an IMAX theater, and when we were there a special exhibition on Ancient Egypt. Maybe we will return some day when the displays are finished, and the kids are in school.



Filed under Museums

11 responses to “Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

  1. Thanks for the museum review (maybe a “revue,” as well). One of my ancestors was among the first settlers in Cincinnati after the Revolutionary War. I have never been there. Road Scholar does a Cincy history program that’s on my (very long) list.


  2. Amanda Legare

    “Alter and Mend until the end” – Terrific! Makes me think of my mother darning our socks over and over.


  3. marcia

    Thanks for this tour-this Ohio girl enjoyed it a lot!


  4. You are the queen of museum reviews!


  5. Julian

    a few years ago the Cincinnati Art museum did a costume exhibit of Cincinnati Dressmakers from the early 19th century through the 1930s-40s. Cincinnati was a regional hub for fashion at one time and the designs were absolutely amazing!


  6. “Alter and mend until the end” that is an amazing motto!

    Also, the design of the museum is amazing!!

    Liked by 1 person

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