The Center of Knowledge
The Cincinnati Museum Center educates visitors on the local and global level
By Kerry Skiff

The Cincinnati Museum Center brings the world to the community, and vice versa. Through its three museums and large OMNIMAX theater, the center works to educate the community on the local, national and global scale. “Clearly, we do want to tell stories that are near and dear to those in Cincinnati,” says Cody Hefner, manager of media relations for the museum center. “[But] we also try to bring the world to Cincinnati.”

Sometimes that world takes the place of global tours, like the recently debuted “Mummies of the World: The Exhibition,” which opened Nov. 26. “Mummies of the World” shines a light on the practice of human preservation through different cultures and time periods. From shrunken heads of Ecuador to tuberculosis victims frozen in a Hungarian church to the famous mummies of the Egyptian pharaohs, visitors are given a global understanding of mummification.

“The exhibit’s really fascinating because it explores the… science behind it and the stories these mummies have to tell,” says Hefner. “You learn so much about how they died and the cause of death, but also how they lived and how human culture has evolved and changed over time.”

That learning is provided not only through national exhibits, but also through those that speak about life in Cincinnati that affect the world at large. The museum center’s current exhibit, “Martha: A Story of Extinction,” takes a part of Cincinnati history and connects it to a continuing issue at the global scale. Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in Cincinnati in 1914, but her species is remembered through this exhibit, which not only commemorates the 100th anniversary of Martha’s death, but also studies the modern issues behind extinction and how it can be prevented.

Through the center’s current OMNIMAX film, visitors can travel to Jerusalem and see the ancient city through the eyes of religion and the richness of history. “Jerusalem talks about the significance of the city that’s been around for thousands of years, [the] history and archaeology and the main religious groups that believe the city is sacred to them,” says Hefner. “[It discusses] why the city is sacred to each of those groups and where those [beliefs] overlap.”

No matter the museum or exhibit, the Cincinnati Museum Center satisfies curiosity. According to Hefner, the museum center is “a resource to the community that seeks to educate and inspire them on a variety of different topics they otherwise might not get to experience.” He adds, “[It’s] taking that little kernel that some people know and getting them into the exhibit and expanding on that.” 


 

Fun in Locomotion
West Chester’s train emporium offers a fun time for everyone.
By Kerry Skiff

The world’s only train-themed entertainment center came from what its owner calls “a dumb idea.” Don Oeters, owner and founder of EnterTRAINment Junction, couldn’t imagine anyone paying for space to house a public train display. “I said, ‘It would be fun, but no one’s dumb enough to buy a building,’” remembers Oeters.

According to Oeters, the idea came from a discussion amongst the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society, who wanted to create a train display for the public. Originally, the plan was for a display the size of a living room, but Oeters envisioned something larger. The result is a train layout half the size of a football field.

“I wanted something to do, so I took the simple idea of building a train layout [and thought about] how to make it so it’s not just a train display, but it’s also something for the family,” says Oeters.

The family elements of EnterTRAINment Junction include a kid’s play area, café and coffee shop, train museum, gift shop and an A-Maze-N Funhouse. According to Bill Mefford, public relations manager, the funhouse is largely popular with visitors. A combination of several different carnival styles, the funhouse brings entertainment to any age group. “We say we have two world-class attractions under one roof,” he says. “You can enter five different tents with five different types of carnivals.”

However, Mefford says the train layout itself is a main attraction of EnterTRAINment Junction. “Overall, my favorite part is the train layout, because it’s incredible. It’s over two miles of track and 90 locomotives and 1,500 train cars,” he describes. “This is not miniature, this is G-scale, which is the largest scale you can get. Each car is the size of a loaf of bread.”

The train junction also offers special holiday exhibits. “There’s always been a connection between railroads and Christmastime. That meant coming home for the holidays, family coming back from war, so [there’s] this great connection between trains and the Christmas holiday,” says Mefford.

At Christmastime, the junction displays a “Journey to the North Pole” where visitors travel through various Christmas scenes. Guests walk through a winter wonderland, reindeer stable, elf workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen on their way to Santa’s study. “It’s really one of the premier Christmas adventures. Instead of seeing Santa, you’re actually traveling through an experience to get to Santa,” says Oeters.

Mefford says EnterTRAINment Junction’s diverse approach to trains makes it appealing to any age group. “The train theme is multi-generational,” he says. “A lot of products and entertainment centers are not multi-generational, but here it is in big numbers.”