Celebrating 200 years of excavation, discovery, and growth

When is the last time you found yourself at a soirée grazing alongside a 60-foot long prehistoric beast? Or in the company of a NASA command module that has been to the moon and back?


When is the last time you let a mad scientist prepare you a cocktail? Or wandered through a limestone cave with a spiked shaved ice in hand?


In celebration of its 200-year legacy at work in our community, the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is concocting a playful after-hours museum party that aims to make such things possible, with culinary treats, cocktails, music, and dancing throughout its galleries.


The anniversary gala, Layers of Wonder, takes place on November 1st — one year after the cultural institution’s homecoming to Union Terminal. For the past 12 months, the CMC has been busy rolling out each new gallery experience and showcasing the newly renovated art deco building in every possible light.


“It’s a big building to cover and there are aspects of it that, even if you’ve come often, seem new to you each time you come, because you look at them a little differently,” says CEO Elizabeth Pierce. “And there are still many people in the community who haven’t been to the museum since we reopened last November.”


Even if you have gotten to visit the CMC’s revamped Public Landing in the past year, have you raised a stein of Rhinegeist in its 1850s beer hall? Or indulged in a local goetta appetizer while wandering its cobblestone streets?


In addition to showcasing the building’s many galleries, the gala is an opportunity to shed some light on the CMC’s own multilayered story which, unbeknownst to many, began 200 years ago with the founding of the Western Museum.


The Western Museum was the first public science museum west of the Alleghenies. And its first employee, hired in 1819, was John James Audubon, who served briefly as the museum’s taxidermist prior to becoming a world-renowned wildlife artist.


“We at the core have been a natural history museum and a historical society with great documents that really chart the beginning of this community,” explains Pierce.


But the CMC also wants to also shed light on yet another important layer of its story — its orientation toward future innovation and discovery.


“We also want to keep people thinking about … what’s the next advance in medicine,” she says. “And what’s the next advance in robotics. And who are the makers of our future going to be, as much as we celebrate the makers of our past.”


Pierce says guests can expect to wander into work-in-progress galleries where they might get a sneak peak into what’s on the horizon, because the CMC wants to be as curious about the future as it is about the past.


“[Layers of Wonder] is about creating energy and enthusiasm for the Cincinnati Museum Center as it goes into its next 200 years,” she says.

Tickets to Layers of Wonder and sponsorships are available now. Early bird pricing ends October 1st. The event is made possible through the generous support of PNC, Landor, Kroger, Dinsmore & Shohl, Rumpke Waste and Recycling, and GBBN. CMC is proud to recognize Rhinegeist as the official beer sponsor.

Support for STEAM in the Museum is provided by Cincinnati Museum Center as it educates and inspires the leaders, builders and dreamers of this generation and the next.
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Read more articles by Sarah Dupee.

Sarah Dupee is a freelance writer, teacher, translator, and musician with a background in French and Francophone Studies.