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Friday, October 12, 2007

Snubbed By Feds: Cincinnati's $100 Million Underground Railroad Museum

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a $100 million-plus facility built partially with federal and state funds, has failed to win inclusion as a site listed in the National Park Service's Network to Freedom. Congress created the Network To Freedom during the 1990s as a method of preserving historic sites, plus supporting important interpretive and educational programs about the Underground Railroad. Twenty-eight of 36 sites that applied for inclusion were approved last month during a meeting at Georgetown College in Kentucky, The Daily Bellwether has learned.

Diane Miller, a park service official who coordinates the Network to Freedom program, said the Freedom Center filed an application that fell short of details. The museum is on the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati and is supposed to be a leading tourist attraction. So far, attendance has not lived up to expectations, and it has failed to stand on its own financially without infusions of government subsidies.

"It has to do with technical issues related to the application. It's not a sense that it will never get in. It's a sense it's just not quite, well, not yet. There are typically in any given round quite a lot that don't make it. Maybe next time.''

Miller said there are 203 historic sites on the list, along with 60 interpretive programs and 37 facilities -- which are museums or heritage centers, a classification that would have included the Freedom Center if it had made the cut. Miller said the Freedom Center can apply again in January.


  1. You would think that the NURF Center would have pulled out all the stops on their application to become part of the national Network to Freedom. It's their freaking mission for Pete's sake. But a half-assed effort left them high and dry.

    It's not like the staff has been overwhelmed with visitors. So why couldn't they adequately describe what they do to the very organization that could help them improve attendance?

    This is further evidence of a dysfunctional management team that lacks focus and effectiveness. Someone of Mr. Pepper's caliber should have been all over this. Instead he let our entire community down.

    Tell me again why we taxpayers should continue to shell out big bucks to support this charade?!?

  2. Hi Mark --

    I predict it will get into the network eventually. I also think there is some dislike of the NURF among Underground Railroad advocates, or whatever they ae called, because they feel it has soaked up much of the money that could have been used across the U.S. to preserve sites that were decaying or in need of repair. That conflict always is going to exist, and I think within a decade or so the preservationists are going to prevail. From here, the museum in Cincinnati has not been able to market itself, nor its mission, to a vast audience. That is kind of a sad reality. That said, I do think the Armenian genocide movie premier earlier in the week, and such events that put it as place that speaks out against mankind's evil and emphasize "freedom," may be the way to go. Wouldn't a debate there about the Iraq War -- pitting Rumsfeld aginst Gore -- put it on the map?

  3. A Concerned ReaderOctober 13, 2007 10:10 AM


    This is a great article/entry.

    Did the Enquirer report this at all? I don't recall ever seeing it in that paper. Do you know?

  4. Hi Concerned Reader --

    No, they don't know. I learned from an NPS contact from my old newspaper days at The Plain Dealer. The meeting was in the middle of last month, and I heard earlier this month, but was not able to get around to doing anything until Friday afternoon because of computer problems.

  5. John Pepper's way of assuaging white guilt over the building of two stadia was to fully support the creation and maintenance of this overhyped and extravagant museum. The architectural irony that the path to freedom lies between two sports arenas seems to be lost on many.