A Celebration 200 Years In The Making


Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) – a  beloved source of community pride and a desired regional destination – has cultivated curiosity and inspired the pursuit of knowledge for two centuries. On November 1, beginning at 6 p.m., the public is invited to help celebrate CMC’s impressive legacy of wonder and discovery with a multi-layered evening of exploration music, dancing, cocktails and culinary delights!

“It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it? It’s amazing!” Elizabeth Pierce, spirited president and CEO, says of CMC’s approaching 200th anniversary. “First and foremost,  we’re trying to mark that moment in time. The party is really designed as a progressive, exciting journey through food, drink and content that moves everyone around the many layers of Union Terminal, around the layers of science and history and early childhood fun. We want to give guests a true sense of the depth of our organization, our collections – just the many layers of awesomeness we have here.”

Hence, the party’s theme – Layers of Wonder, from deep into a cave to deep into the time of dinosaurs to the 1850s’ heyday of Cincinnati’s public landing. And more! At every turn, an evening with a guaranteed fun edge to it, Pierce notes.

“It will be a festive, moving event – it’s not a sit-down dinner,” she points out. “Guests can meander through the museum with cocktails, fun food and equally fun experiences.” There are, of course, places where guests can sit down and catch their breath, including a VIP lounge in the Rotunda.

“It’s all about honoring the 200 years of content that defines our organization while creating energy and excitement for CMC’s future,” Pierce says.

Since November 2018, CMC has added new dinosaurs, science-themed interactives and new experience-enhancing technology in the Museum of Natural History & Science; and updated digital technology in the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater. Also this fall, the new Austin E. Knowlton Foundation Science Stage will debut.


A Legacy of Discovery

In 1818, Dr. Daniel Drake founded the Western Museum Society, and John James Audubon was the museum’s first employee, hired in 1819 as a taxidermist and background painter. It was during his brief time in Cincinnati that Audubon began his multi-volume master work, “Birds of America,” earning him his rightful place in history as a world-renowned wildlife artist.

The Western Museum eventually led to the establishment of the Museum of Natural History & Science, which opened in 1820 and is heralded as the first public science museum west of the Alleghenies.

Fast forward to today: CMC continues to encourage that greater connection with natural history while emphasizing innovation, research and the pursuit of knowledge. While there are still fossils and other specimens on display from the museum’s earliest days, the storytelling and relevance that goes along them are now utilizing modern technology, Pierce points out.


To the Moon and Back

As part of honoring its 200th anniversary this fall, CMC is serving as the fifth and final stop on the national tour of the Smithsonian’s inspiring display, “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.” The exhibition, which opened here Sept. 28, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission, and explores the birth and development of the American space program and space race. The exhibition features the Apollo 11 command module Columbia – the only portion of the historic spacecraft to return to Earth after the first mission to land a man on the moon and safely return him home. It’s a fascinating opportunity for exhibition guests to learn about the historic journey of the Apollo 11 crew – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

“This is so exciting for us!” Pierce says. “It’s an incredible opportunity for our region to see this iconic piece of history. We are honored to bring this national treasure to Cincinnati as an inspiration for the next giant leap. We hope this exhibition, in connection with our permanent Neil Armstrong Space Exploration Gallery, will create a level of appreciation and excitement that will help drive future STEM engineering and space explorers.”

Fun Fact: Armstrong was a chair of the CMC board of directors, one of the many people who helped move the museum center to Union Terminal.

“This is part of the legacy we want to celebrate in November,” Pierce adds. “We want the party, this moment in time, to help create the future leadership volunteers and next generation of donors of this organization. We want to create that next enthusiasm, that next cycle of legacy, that will carry our organization forward.”


Fun, Food and Drink

Pierce promises many “surprise and delight” moments for the estimated 800 to 1,200 guests who attend CMC’s anniversary extravaganza. She encourages partygoers to purchase their “hottest tickets in town” as soon as possible.

“Last November’s Union Terminal re-opening gala was sold out, and people were excited to find out what was happening next,” she says. “This year, it’s a celebration of Cincinnati Museum Center – the content, the legacy, we are so fortunate to have. It’s the perfect time to get excited about the future while appreciating the amazing fact that CMC is 200 years old.”

“It’s going to be a big, big party, with amazing food to make sure the night is perfect,” says Travis Kight, chief executive chef with SSA, which prepares CMC’s food for all its special events. “That’s what it’s all about for us. We want guests to have a variety of unique culinary experiences throughout the evening.”

And that means do not expect cheese-and-crackers or other “regular” party fare. Some of the intriguing history-and-science-themed menu items Kight and his crew will offer, for example:


•    Grilled Lamb Lollipop with Meyer Lemon and Sweet Pea Mash (for the carnivores in the crowd)

•    Roasted Fall Vegetable Skewers With Romesco Sauce (for the herbivores)

•    Nitrogen-Dipped Mousse Topped With Liquid Nitrogen Salted Popcorn

•    Moon-Shaped Falafel Empanada, Hummus Powder, Freeze-Dried Parsley & Tahini Dust

“With our large culinary team, we can spread our wings,” Kight says. “We’re also reaching out to five or six local restaurants to make sure they are involved, too. This is a great opportunity that won’t come around again in our lifetime. We want lots of people to be a part of it!”

For ticket information, visit www.cincymuseum.org/layersgala/.


Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is located at 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45203. For more information, call 513.287.7000, email information@cincymuseum.org or visit www.cincymuseum.org.