Shooting Journal: The Cincinnati Museum Center

For the sixth year, the Cincinnati Museum Center the former Union Train Station, hosted a 3 hour photo shoot for photographers of all ages and skill level. Areas not often open to the public were unlocked and docents posted to direct traffic and educate visitors about these areas.

Fortunately, this is a self-directed tour that allows photographers to proceed at their own pace, rather than try to keep up with a group. The tour included some areas are typically open as well as those open for the event only. The tower overlooking the train tracks still had a number of visitors but offered views along the tracks in three directions through huge windows, easily opened for unobstructed viewing. The small railroad library in the same tower has more windows looking out on the Art Deco dome and holds a collection of books and old lanterns.

The Center was virtually abandoned for years as passenger train travel declined. Renovation is a work in progress and some of the former dining areas, like the Cincinnati Room, are empty of furniture and have been stripped of some of the wonderful murals that graced them. However, walking in the main entrance, you forget it is not what it used to be. The spectacular dome rises high over the hall which is lined with murals above and shops and activities below. The Cincinnati History Museum and the Natural History Museum are on either side of the hall. The Rookwood Room, an ice cream parlor,serves locally loved Graeter's ice cream dishes and drinks. There are, not one, but two museum shops, both worth a stop.

The Scripps Newsreel Theater is stripped of its wall decor but the old seat show classic Art Deco styling as well as wire racks beneath for gentlemen to keep their hats. Photographers register in the old railroad waiting room with benches still in place and dark murals of trains.
The best murals for me were those outsider the ladies lounge opposite the Cincinnati Room. These appear to be leather and show jungle animals of elegant design in rich warm tones. Benches in the waiting area make a good place to frame shots and to rest tired feet.

There is a catwalk above the main hall, over the doors, that was open to us as well. It spans the entire front of the hall and offers a good vantage point for shots of the wonderful murals of early Cincinnati. Rather than city notables or classical themes, these works of art feature the people who were indigenous to the area, the people who farmed the land, plied the river and created the homes and buildings. Down the stairs below the entry hall, the Museum Center Library and Archives has a beautiful entrance and yet more murals on either side.

The many elegant architectural features, large and small,provide opportunities for great images. Since the museums close at five and the shops at 6, the building empties out and the photographers can shoot unobstructed views and are asked only to sign out before leaving by 7PM.

Art Deco Arch

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Cincinnati Skyline from the Museum Center

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The Cincinnati Museum Center

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Union Terminal Trains

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