Sign museum eyes 20K SF expansion

The American Sign Museum is looking to double in size.

A campaign was announced Oct. 25 for the museum to raise $5.5 million for an expansion into a 20,000-square foot unfinished portion of its current building in Camp Washington.

To date, the museum has surpassed 62% of its fundraising goal, with investments from donors from across the country. 

Tod Swormstedt

Leadership gifts have been received from the Swormstedt Family, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry and Gemini Sign Products. Additionally, the museum was awarded $750,000 from the state of Ohio and has committed to self-fund 5% of project costs.

Construction on phase I, which includes staff offices, conference room, collections area and a special events bar is complete. Phase IA, which includes a library and resource center and a new exterior along Monmouth Avenue, is underway with an expected completion date in early 2023. Phase II of the expansion will complete the design concept and construction of the remaining museum expansion, including an extension of the current Main Street exhibition space, interior sign “boneyard,” catering kitchen, storage area and a multi-use workshop. Construction on Phase II is expected to be finished in late 2023.  

“The American Sign Museum is a one-of-a-kind organization with the largest comprehensive collection of signs and artifacts,” said Cindy Kearns, museum director. “A Campaign for the American Sign Museum will cement Cincinnati and Camp Washington as the historic signage center for the United States.” 

Founded in 1999, the American Sign Museum was the vision of Tod Swormstedt to pay tribute to the craftsmanship and creativity of early American signage. Swormstedt, the former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine, known as “the bible of the sign industry,” is now the curator of the ASM.

“In 1999, I left the magazine to start working on what would become the ASM,” says Swormstedt. “I did not have any signs. I was just a crazy guy with a crazy idea. I’d like to say I planned all of this, but, to be honest, I had no assurance if it would even work.”

Originally housed in the Essex Studios in Walnut Hills, the museum quickly outgrew that space, moving to its permanent home in Camp Washington in 2012. This is the second capital campaign for the American Sign Museum. The first was for the original move to Camp Washington. 

“We are off to a great start with the campaign,” says Dick Duvall, ASM trustee and co-chair of A Campaign for the American Sign Museum. “But we will look to the larger community for critical support to build the museum’s future.”

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