UPDATE: Freedom Center Joins Museum Center

It’s official. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) has been merged into the Cincinnati Museum Center‘s (CMC) corporate structure. It was approved by the CMC Board of Trustees late yesterday afternoon.

Below is the press release issued by both institutions:

June 28, 2012

Media contact: Elizabeth Pierce, Vice President, Marketing Communications
Cell: (513) 368-2139

Cincinnati Museum Center Trustees Approve Resolution to Join National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Into Corporate Structure

Cincinnati—Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) Board of Trustees approved a resolution today authorizing CMC to become the sole member of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC), joining NURFC into the CMC family of organizations.  This follows a period of due diligence that was initiated in February when the NURFC Board of Trustees expressed the intent and authorized amendments to NURFC bylaws permitting the organizations to join.

Cincinnati Museum Center is regarded as a national model of excellence as a result of the successful integration of multiple museums.  Union Terminal re-opened its doors in 1990 as home to the legacy institutions: Museum of Natural History & Science (established in 1818) and the Cincinnati Historical Society (1831), and the Robert D. Lindner OMNIMAX ® Theatre.  These three corporate structures became one organization in 1995 gaining operating efficiencies.  The Cincinnati Children’s Museum joined this corporate structure in 1997 and was later renamed as the Duke Energy Children’s Museum.  Additionally, Enjoy the Arts (1981) and the Helen Steiner Rice Foundation joined CMC’s corporate structure in 2009.

“This is a powerful alignment of iconic and inspirational museums.” said Francie S. Hiltz, chair of Cincinnati Museum Center Board of Trustees. “The result is a creative and dynamic partnership, offering financial strength and new opportunities for each museum and our community.”

The two world-renowned institutions will maintain their own brands and distinct missions, but are now positioned to contribute more to the community and the nation.  For the purpose of charitable gifts and other revenue, each organization will be a separate 501(c)(3) legal charity.  Within a period of approximately sixty days, technology, human resources, operating systems and processes will be integrated.

“I am sincere in my gratitude for the generous spirit of collaboration and future vision shown by the trustees and management of Cincinnati Museum Center,” said Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr. presiding co-chair of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Our duty as community leaders and as institutions of learning and dialogue is to share the lessons of our history that inspire courageous steps for freedom today.  Through this more efficient corporate structure we know we can offer more to our community.”

The Board of Trustees of Cincinnati Museum Center will have financial oversight to the combined corporate structure.  The Board of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is responsible for fundraising, oversight of programming and for enhancing the image of the Freedom Center, locally, nationally and globally.

Further the Cincinnati Museum Center Trustees elected today the following NURFC officers:  Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr. and John Pepper as Board Co-Chairs; Douglass W. McDonald, CEO ; A. Larry Sisk as CFO; and Kim Robinson, as Executive Director.

During the period of due diligence, CMC had elected NURFC trustees, Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr.,  John Pepper, Phil Castellini, and Edwin Rigaud to the CMC Board of Trustees.  At today’s meeting, CMC’s board also elected Marty Dunn and Mitchel Livingston as trustees.

Local and national funding partners recognize the administrative efficiencies created through this structure.   Improved effectiveness and maximized resources are critically important to the missions of the museums and provide renewed sustainability to National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.   Donors have given financial and in-kind support driven by a deep appreciation for this creative community solution and in celebration of the mission of the Freedom Center.   Since the announcement NURFC received a $5 million one-to-one challenge grant to grow the endowment.  To date, the endowment’s value is $3 million.


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 continues its role as a major regional cultural institution through the exhibition  A Day in Pompeii  featuring more than 250 artifacts that share the life, culture and tragic death of the people and City of Pompeii.


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

“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.”

“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.”


This is great news for both institutions and the communities they serve. I couldn’t agree more with Francie Hiltz’s sentiments:

“This is a powerful alignment of iconic and inspirational museums. The result is a creative and dynamic partnership, offering financial strength and new opportunities for each museum and our community.”

What do you think? Could the NURFC/CMC merger be a model for other cities?

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