Local museum wins major grants

The Over-the-Rhine Museum has landed two grants in the past few weeks that will lay the groundwork for the museum’s next decade.

The museum is one of just four sites around the country to receive a National Endowment for the Humanities Historic Places grant.

The $75,000 planning grant will underwrite the museum’s planning process for its two-building complex at 3 West McMicken. The resulting report will be the museum’s roadmap for the next decade of development. 

“It’s hard to explain how excited we are about this grant,” said Rob Gioielli, chair of the museum’s board of directors. “Not only will this help us launch the vital next phase of our project, but recognition from the NEH validates the importance and quality of the work we are doing.”

Rob Gioielli

The NEH grant follows by just a few weeks the receipt of a $41,000 grant by the museum from the American Historical Association. One of 50 recipients nationally, the museum will use the funding to support its museum director and hire a part-time oral history coordinator.

“This grant is so vital because it will allow us to focus on the important work of preserving and celebrating the voices and stories of some of the most important, but most often marginalized, members of the Over-the-Rhine community,” Gioielli said.

The oral histories are crucial to include the stories of marginalized voices — primarily of Appalachian and African-American migrants — who called Over-the-Rhine home during the 20th century.

The AHA grant is part of its program to sustain and advance the work of historical organizations, many of them challenged by the global pandemic. The grant funding is made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

With funding from the NEH for the building project, the museum will conduct archival research, convene a panel of nationally recognized humanities experts and engage a community planning committee of current and former Over-the-Rhine residents to create an ambitious 10-year plan.

This process will guide the instruction, interpretation and programming of apartments of German speaking immigrants who came to the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, later waves of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and Appalchian and African American migrants from the 1930s to the early 2010s. The museum will tell stories of actual people who lived in these buildings between the 1860s and 2000s to illuminate broad national themes including human migration and urban change. More than 135 families have lived in the museum’s two-building complex.

The NEH funding will help determine which of these stories can give the most comprehensive view of urban life across time. The museum will then recreate apartments of these families to give visitors a hands-on experience. Each apartment will include decorative finishes, window and wall treatments, and furnishings appropriate to the family identified in the plan.

“This will help us realize our dream of using the history of real people who have lived and worked in Over-the-Rhine to show that, though seemingly disparate groups have made Over-the-Rhine their home over time, we all have much more in common than not,” said Anne Delano Steinert, the museum’s founding board chair, who will play a key role in the planning process.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

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