Monday, February 19, 2007

It's the Have's vs. the Have-not's in the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Ball pit...
Water play area...
Front of Union Terminal...."Superfriends Hall of Justice"... (don't you wish?)
Lovely mosaic ...

The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is an amazing educational and family resource. Home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Cincinnati Children's Museum, an Imax Theater, and the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science, along with periodic special exhibits (right now it's TITANIC ARTIFACTS), this place is certainly the public educational resource gem of the city! It used to be the city's train terminal. It was created in the 1930's art deco architectural style and is wonderful just to observe. There are lovely mosaics like the one pictured above throughout the lobby.

Now I happen to be lucky enough to have a family pass to this place (compliments of our employer). To someone out on the economy that would cost $99! Impossible for a lot of Cincinnati's families. Anyhoo, so since I am PRIVILEGED enough to have this pass I go there frequently, about 3x/month. I usually go to the Children's Museum, then we head to the Natural History Museum for the second half of our trip.

The Children's Museum is chock full of activities for small children; an amazing water play area (above); a ball room (above) where the children must use a series of ropes and pulleys and chutes to send the balls to this giant hopper in the ceiling. When it gets full, then an alarm rings and it dumps them all onto the kids! There is a toddler-only area (4 and under) that's fenced off and the preschoolers and babies can play in a sand box, or climb and run and jump on an indoor playground, there are fine-motor games, a dress up tree house with clothes to put on, a couple of different felt boards, and a "parents resource room" where a parent can go in with his/her child to unwind. There is a TON of reading materials in there along with a copy machine! There is a couch, the windows are curtained off, and a sign that says to feel free to close the door and turn off the lights and nap if you want to! How awesome! I'm not nursing a small baby anymore, but it's the perfect place for a tired nursing mom and baby to curl up for a half hour break from the hustle and bustle. Something like this totally can make a hell day out with the baby turn into a great day! "The Farm" also has a musical section, a Lego section, and a ball-rolling track. There are also several other sections in the children's museum but they are too numerous to write about them all. The Woods is the other highlight I guess. This is an indoor playground, which looks like a series of tree houses and tunnels!

The Natural History Museum's big attraction for my family is it's Ice Age exhibit, in particular, the "Ice Cave"/glacier exhibit with all of the statues of the Ice Age animals. My 7-year-old is obsessed with the last Ice Age so this is perfect for him. You can actually walk through this ice cave, and it really looks like you're walking through ice. There is running water and everything! Like every section of this museum, it's really interactive. There are tons of little cards for children to flip and discover facts about the ice age animals. This area really is perfect for 1st graders like my son.

Every time we go on our trip (which like I said is at least 3x/month) I see school buses full of kids coming on school-sponsored field trips. There's a big problem I see with this. I only see white kids at the museum center. NEVER have I seen a bus load full of little black school children!

Isn't Cincinnati a mostly black city? Why aren't there bus loads of black school children coming to the museum center every time I go? Why are there only bus loads full of white school children?

This museum is so incredibly fabulous and the kids who need it the most aren't even given proper access.

Walla, the only time I have seen more than a handful of black citizens in this place was on MLK Day when they had various artisans selling their works in the lobby!

I lived in the Tampa bay area of Florida for 7 years. Now Tampa is a city that is 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic. We frequented the zoo and the aquarium. There were always bus loads of Hispanic kids, bus loads of black kids, bus loads of white kids, bus loads of everybody coming to these great public educational resources!

Why isn't this happening here in Cincinnati?

Are black children (Cincinnati's "have-nots") so "scary" that their mere presence en masse could cause all of the white patrons (the "have's") not to renew their $99 passes?

There is something severely wrong with what I am seeing.

It is outrageous.

And tragic.

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