By Cody Hefner
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center beat out 19 museums across the country to win the title of Best History Museum in the country. Over a four-week nationwide vote, the nationally-accredited museum garnered the most votes in USA TODAY’s 10Best Readers’ Choice awards. This was the third consecutive year the Freedom Center has been nominated, but marks the first year finishing in the top spot after landing in the top three in 2021 and 2022.
“Being named the best history museum in the country is a testament to the enduring power and relevance of the stories we tell and the passion with which our team tells them,” said Woodrow Keown Jr., president and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “This is an honor we share with our entire community who has supported us. To everyone who voted, everyone who has visited, everyone who has supported us in so many ways, you have our continued gratitude.”
Since its opening in 2004, the Freedom Center has shared stories of freedom’s heroes from the era of the Underground Railroad to modern day. It is symbolically located on the banks of the Ohio River, where many enslaved people took their first steps on free soil after self-liberating through the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. The Freedom Center honors that legacy through immersive, thought-provoking exhibits, programming and films to be a convener of dialogue around issues of freedom, the denial of freedom, systemic racism, implicit bias and modern-day enslavement. During a visit, guests are introduced to freedom conductors including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, John Rankin, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Box Brown, Margaret Garner and the millions whose names have long been forgotten.
In addition to its permanent exhibits, the Freedom Center is home to the Open Your Mind: Understanding Implicit Bias Lab that educates and reveals the unconscious biases that prevent us from being truly inclusive and ways to overcome them. The Freedom Center’s various programming series have expanded conversations on inequities in healthcare, policing, nutrition, mental health resources and more to a national audience through in-person and virtual panel discussions with a range of local and national experts.
Opening next month at the Freedom Center, Solidarity Now! The 1968 Poor People’s Campaign is a new featured exhibition from the Smithsonian that illuminates the often-overlooked history of the multicultural movement that confronted poverty and redefined social justice and activism in America. The exhibition opens Thursday, March 30 at the Freedom Center.
The Freedom Center is also in the early stages of developing a comprehensive exhibit refresh plan that will ensure its exhibits and content remain relevant and continue to share stories that will inform the current and changing dynamics of the ongoing social justice movement.
To ensure its galleries and its stories are accessible to the entire community, the Freedom Center partnered with the Fifth Third Foundation to start Fifth Third Community Days, providing free admission on the fifth and third Sunday each month, plus MLK Day and Juneteenth, through 2026.
“This honor brings national recognition not only to our organization, but to our mission and our city. It further establishes Cincinnati as a tourist destination and a city dedicated to the inclusive freedom our mission embodies,” added Keown. “We hope this award will encourage more people from across the country to experience all our museum and our city have to offer.”
The full list of USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards can be viewed at: https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-history-museum-2023/.