Last week, my professor for Museums and Society surprised the class by deviating from the syllabus. Instead of discussing what distinguishes museums from other cultural institutions, he launched into a 50-minute story about his summer trip to Cincinnati to experience part of the city’s museum culture. As a native Cincinnatian (yeah, I know, boo Ohio, we suck), I was super surprised. Was this real life?

I love the museums in Cincinnati. I love the suspended delicate glass Chihuly sculpture that greets me every time I walk through the huge doors of the Cincinnati Art Museum. I love the giant art-deco rotunda of the Cincinnati Museum Center and its Museum of Science and Natural History’s recreated cave, full of stalactites, stalagmites and live bats. I love Cincinnati’s sole Rembrandt portrait that hangs in the Taft Museum of Art, for which my mom is a docent.

I also have loved my visits to the Contemporary Art Museum (especially its “Unmuseum,” or mini children’s museum on the top floor that houses a see-saw made from a trailer, life-size puppets and a virtual composer game), the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Cincinnati Zoo and the Newport Aquarium (which is technically in Kentucky, but shhh — let’s pretend I don’t live 30 minutes north of the Mason-Dixon line).

I spent a large part of my childhood visiting these museums with school groups and my family. Some of my most vivid memories come from these institutions. I remember having my mind blown by the BODIES exhibit at the Museum Center. I remember pretending I was on an African safari during the jungle walk at the zoo. I remember being terrified of the Egyptian mummy at the Art Museum.

These museums are familiar and important to me. They helped to define my childhood and my current interests. And it was fascinating to consider them from an “outsider’s” perspective. My professor had never been to the Cincinnati museums before and, as a scholar of museums, I believe he had a positive experience at all the museums he visited.

What surprised me most, however, were the two museums that dominated my professor’s story. The first was the Creation Museum. I am sad to say that this museum, which claims to bring “the pages of the Bible to life,” touts the creationist creed and includes dioramas of humans and dinosaurs co-existing, is still considered Cincinnati-based even though it’s technically located in Kentucky. I have never been.

The second was a private collection of magic-themed paraphernalia. Collected for more than 30 years by Ken Klosterman, a Cincinnati businessman, this “Salon de Magie” is considered by magic enthusiasts one of the most comprehensive collections of artifacts from the history of magic. My professor spent most of his 50 minutes discussing the experience of touring this collection, which seemed to be quite exciting. The tour, which lasted more than eight hours, included many illusions and demonstrations.

This collection is 20 minutes from my house. Once again, I’ve never been.

For all of my Cincinnati museum experience, it was fascinating to me that such an amazing collection existed so close to me for so long, and I didn’t even know it. Magic is not necessarily my passion, but I would never pass up the opportunity to tour such a world-class collection. (As for the Creation Museum, I’m still on the fence as to whether I want to give money to such an institution. We’ll see if curiosity wins in the end.)

My professor’s story was poignant for me: It reminded me that Cincinnati, which I often bash as backward and boring, still has a lot to offer me. I haven’t seen it all. I could probably live in the city my entire life (please God, no) and I still wouldn’t discover all of Cincinnati’s lesser-known cultural sites. His story was also a bit of a wake-up call. I’ve always considered Cincinnati sub-par to many of the other cities I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. New York City comes to mind, as do Portland, San Francisco and Ann Arbor. But this is really snobbish of me. Yeah, Cincinnati is not necessarily the most cosmopolitan city, but it’s the only hometown I have. And I need to respect that.

So: Dear Cincinnati, please accept my apology for being mean to you my entire life. I really do love you deep down. Sincerely, Leah.

Also, Dear Mr. Klosterman, may I please come tour your magic museum?

Also, Dear Creation Museum, please stop existing.

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