Cincinnati history, children’s museums perform well in national vote

Three of Cincinnati’s most beloved institutions had respectable, even if not winning, showings in a contest to select the top museums in the United States.

Following a four-week nationwide voting period, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center finished second in USA TODAY’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards in the “Best History Museum” category, with the Cincinnati History Museum coming in one place behind it. The Children’s Museum finished fifth in its category.

Cincinnati Museum Center exterior on a sunny day.

The Cincinnati Museum Center operates all three venues.

“We’re honored to be recognized by our community and voters across the nation as the home of some of the country’s best museums,” said Elizabeth Pierce, CMC’s president and CEO.

Honoring arts, culture offerings country-wide

Each of the annual USA TODAY awards museums, destinations and other cultural attractions from across the country. Nominations get whittled down to a list of 10 finalists by a panel of experts and editors. The public votes on the rankings for the top 10.

The Freedom Center – located in downtown Cincinnati – finished first last after placing second and third in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The Cincinnati History Museum secured a top-five finish in 2023 and The Children’s Museum finished in the top 10 in its category that year.

After a public outreach campaign, voting wrapped up Feb. 12. A person could vote one time per day, per email.

In the end, first place in the history museum category went to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh finished second in its category, just behind the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indiana. The top-10 lists in both categories are below.

Despite not winning, Pierce said the recognition highlights the work taking place at both organizations.

She voiced pride in all of the organizations, including the Freedom Center which tells “important stories in our shared cultural fabric.” She also stressed the importance of instilling a love of learning in people from an early age, which is why they designed the Children’s Museum to be attractive to kids of every age, ability regardless of their interest area.

“The excellence of our individual museums really drives home the value and impact of our unique multi-museum complex,” she continued. “This is a moment for us to celebrate our staff and volunteers who have developed and delivered incredible experiences for individuals who visit and make memories together with us, and to celebrate our city that supports us.”

Top 10 history museums 2024

  1. Heinz History Center – Pittsburgh, Pa.
  2. Nation Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  3. Cincinnati History Museum
  4. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum – Jackson, Miss.
  5. Mill City Museum – Minneapolis, Minn.
  6. Computer History Museum – Mountain View, Calif.
  7. Museum of the American Revolution – Philadelphia
  8. National Museum of the Pacific War – Fredericksburg, Texas
  9. Africatown Heritage House – Mobile, Ala.
  10. National Air and Space Museum – Washington, D.C.

Top 10 children’s museums 2024

  1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
  2. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
  3. Mississippi Children’s Museum – Jackson, Miss.
  4. Kohl Children’s Museum – Glenview, Ill.
  5. The Children’s Museum (Cincinnati)
  6. Please Touch Museum – Philadelphia
  7. Marbles Kids Museum – Raleigh, N.C.
  8. Children of Gettysburg 1863 – Gettysburg, Pa.
  9. City Museum – St. Louis, Missouri
  10. Chicago Children’s Museum – Chicago, Illinois

Cincinnati Museum Center

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