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Cincinnati Museum Center and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Take Steps to Join

Organizations will leverage capabilities

Cincinnati— The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center today announced a visionary plan to take steps to join together in a united corporate structure, with the Cincinnati Museum Center becoming the sole member of the Freedom Center.

Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center are iconic and inspirational attractions both regionally and nationally. We share a common vision to create engaging, inspiring and meaningful learning environments.

“We know that joining together will strengthen our respective organizations,” said Francie S. Hiltz, chair Cincinnati Museum Center Board of Trustees and Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr. presiding co-chair of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “The result will be creative and dynamic organizations, offering greater financial strength and new opportunities.”

The two world-renowned institutions will maintain their own brands and distinct missions, but be better positioned to contribute more to the community. It is anticipated that this framework will result in an exciting new chapter for both museums and for Cincinnati USA. Hiltz and Lynch further stated, “We see new opportunities to maximize the effectiveness and reach of each organization through improved efficiencies, shared talent, the leveraging of national partnerships and community investment.”

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for our two iconic institutions and for the men, women and children we serve,” said John Pepper, co-chair of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and long-time supporter. “Having examined the case for joining together, I am convinced that this combination of talent and efficiencies will dramatically expand the impact of the Freedom Center’s mission, locally and nationwide. Our two institutions will do things together neither of us could do alone.”

When the transaction is completed, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center will be united in operations and planning, thereby creating a dynamic and visionary force in the community. For the purpose of charitable gifts and other revenue, each organization will be a separate 501(c)(3) entity. The Board of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be responsible for overseeing fundraising, programming and for enhancing the image of the Freedom Center, locally, nationally and globally.

Kim Robinson will continue to serve as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center leader in this new structure and work jointly with the Cincinnati Museum Center’s senior leadership team, led by Doug McDonald.

Robinson shared: “We are deeply motivated by the future opportunities we see to strengthen our ability to carry out the mission of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. This step of joining with Cincinnati Museum Center will allow us to consider exciting new approaches to engage far more people in the universal struggle for freedom and the celebration of its achievement.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center will pursue a period of diligence over the next several months. They will begin meetings and dialogue with the community and consideration will be given to the necessary program improvements and transition details needed for the sustainable success of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center.

Echoing the opportunity for the community, Cincinnati Museum Center president and CEO, Douglass W. McDonald, said: “The staff and board of Cincinnati Museum Center recognize the important contribution the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center makes to reveal stories about freedom’s heroes and inspire action and celebration of freedom today. This is a great occasion for us to leverage the combined expertise of our two organizations, bringing national and international attention for the benefits of our residents. ”

Local and national leaders are sharing their support of this initiative.

“There is tremendous opportunity to maximize the effectiveness and reach of both organizations and work in concert with community leadership to make Cincinnati USA a must-see destination and a must-live-here community,”said Thomas Williams, Cincinnati Business Committee Chair.

“I am very supportive of the merger,” said Christopher Smitherman, president of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP and sitting Cincinnati City Councilman. “I have great confidence in both leaders. I view the merger as a very positive step for the region.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, shared his thoughts: “The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is quickly becoming an indispensable institution whose mission grows more vital by the day. By joining forces with the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Freedom Center will have the foundation to grow stronger and more dynamic, enabling it to reach and inspire a wider audience.

Henderson further said, “From the Underground Railroad to today’s global fight against human trafficking, freedom’s story is never finished. The civil and human rights community commends everyone involved in this partnership for helping today’s generations and those that follow gain a deeper understanding of this paramount struggle of the human race.”

Bruce Gordon, former president and CEO of the National NAACP, and president, retail markets group, Verizon shared: “The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s unique mission and purpose cannot be matched by any other organization or institution in the nation. Since opening it’s doors, the Freedom Center has emerged as a positive force both locally and nationally. By combining with the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Freedom Center will take a bold step towards becoming even more efficient and effective. I see a brighter future for both institutions.”

Ed Rigaud, founding CEO of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and current board member reflected: “As many know, I have a special love for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, having spent 10 years of my life working directly to help make it happen, as the first full-time employee. Not many people know that I also served on the Board of the Natural History Museum, when it decided to join with the other institutions that formed the Cincinnati Museum Center, and moved to the beautiful Union Terminal location. It is this positive experience that helps me to envision a successful future for this next partnership between the Freedom Center and the Museum Center. This is a winning formula, and this is the correct and logical next step for our museums.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has positively impacted millions of people in the past eight years of operation, by revealing stories about freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, and inspiring people to take courageous steps for freedom today.

About CMC
Additionally, Cincinnati Museum Center remains focused on its goal to further advance and grow its offerings in the areas of science, history and early childhood learning. Cincinnati Museum Center will continue its role as a major regional cultural institution by bringing the exhibition A Day in Pompeii to the community on March 2, as one of only four museums in the nation to present this touring exhibition.

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