Cleveland Starts Here: Learning More About My Favorite City

Monday, January 15, 2018

I'm a sucker for Cleveland. Maybe you've noticed? Before I even moved here, I knew I'd love this city - & right I was.

Something I don't know much about, though, is Cleveland's history. Sure, I read Cleveland Magazine, & I'm a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society, & I once went on a cool walking tour that taught me about Moses Cleaveland, who founded our fair city & then never returned. (Insert Cleveland jokes here.) I know that a Cleveland deejay coined the term "rock & roll," & that one time, our river caught on fire.

And that's... kind of it.

I'm not much for museums, to be honest, but when the Cleveland History Center debuted its new permanent exhibit, Cleveland Starts Here®, I was really excited to check it out. The exhibit is the first thing you walk through when you visit the history center, with two rooms chock-full of CLE paraphernalia & info.

Suffice it to say, I'm more of a history nerd than I give myself credit for, & I found everything at the history center to be really cool. Here, a few highlights:

Upon entering the CLE Starts Here exhibit, you're faced with a huge timeline wall, which includes photos, videos, artifacts, & interactive elements that tell the city's history through the decades. In the surrounding room, you can read about various elements of the city's past & present, from the founding of the Rock Hall to the Cavs' 2016 win. But it's not only the good stuff: The exhibit also talks about the Tamir Rice shooting & subsequent protests, among other less-savory elements of our city's history - much of which continues today.

The best photo I took of the day was of the giant Chief Wahoo right behind the admission desk, but I feel pretty uncomfortable about that, given the mascot's offensiveness. This massive neon rendering used to live atop the sign over Jacobs Field, but it was removed in 1995 when the field was renamed (though it'll always be Jacobs Field to me!) A sign about the mascot's history asks museum guests to weigh in on the controversy, so here's my hot take: Nostalgic? Sure. Offensive? Deeply. Get rid of 'it - & rename the team altogether. 

Though the exhibit itself isn't huge, it's full of small bits & pieces of history & includes rotating features of the center's many Cleveland historical artifacts. For now, you can see a DeLorean, Cleveland political buttons, & a detailed replica of Terminal Tower, & Gay Games medals, among other items. 

From there, we moved into the rest of the museum & its many exhibits.

As someone with political curiosities, I was especially interested in Carl & Louis Stokes: Making History, highlighting two of the city's most impressive brothers. Carl Stokes, Cleveland's 51st mayor, was the first elected Black mayor of a major American city, & his brother Louis was Ohio's first Black congressman. Both have since passed, but their legacies continue to inspire. Cleveland has since had two Black mayors (including current mayor Frank Jackson), & Louis's House seat - my district! - continues to be held by Black politicians: the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones & the formidable Rep. Marcia Fudge. 

Speaking of politics, my favorite exhibit was Power & Politics, which opened during the 2016 election season. Did you know that eight presidents came from Cleveland? Two were assassinated (Garfield & McKinley), plus an attempt on a third (Taft). The Western Reserve Historical Society possesses one of the country's largest collections of campaign ephemera, which is (fun fact!) a long-time interest of mine. Maybe it's the marketer in me, but I love old campaign buttons.

I particularly love old Eisenhower paraphernalia, in part because I did my second-grade presidential report on him. Don't laugh! Those reports were a big deal, man, & we all became very possessive & defensive of "our" presidents. Plus, how great a slogan is "I like Ike"? My kingdom to anyone who can help me get my hands on an Ike button of my own!

Mike & I split up for part of our time at the museum, based on our interests. I spent a long time wandering the Wow Factor exhibit, which features 100 garments, accessories, & pieces of jewelry worn by Clevelanders throughout the last 150 years. I even spotted a dress created by Project Runway contestant Valerie Mayen (who owns a local shop called Yellowcake) & one worn by Cleveland blogger & DJ/PR gal extraordinaire Reena Samaan Goodwin.

There's much more to the museum, including the Bingham-Hanna Mansion & Hay-McKinney Mansion galleries, the Setting the World in Motion exhibit (which includes a huge Goodyear gondola!), the entire Crawford Auto Aviation Museum (so many cars), a kids' section, & plenty of Cleveland-themed art, plus a gorgeous courtyard that was, upon our visit, covered in snow.

To cap off our trip, we went for a quick ride on the 1910 Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel, relocated & restored more than 40 years after the park's closure. The price of general admission includes two rides! Have I ever told you that I love carousels? Mike was a good sport about it, though he didn't quite share my level of enthusiasm. (I chose a horse named Gertrude, in case you were curious. Yes, they're all labeled with names.)

If you live in Northeast Ohio & are looking for a fascinating but low-key museum day, I can't recommend the Cleveland History Center highly enough. I look forward to continuing to visit as the exhibits & featured artifacts change. Know thy city!

And one last thing: I'll also be attending the Western Reserve Historical Society's upcoming fundraiser Somewhere in Time: Satin & Soot, held January 27th. Tickets for this 1870s-themed costume party begin at $50, with all proceeds benefiting WRHS in providing continued education & public programs. Join me!

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets to the Cleveland History Center to visit the Cleveland Starts Here® exhibit in exchange for my honest review, & I will be attending the Satin & Soot event as a member of the media. I am a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society. All views are, as always, entirely my own!

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