The Cincinnati Sign Museum Offers All The Bright Flashing Lights Youd Normally Associate With Las Vegas Or Times Square But With An Educational Twist
The Cincinnati Sign Museum is an easy ten-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati, but it could easily be the best attraction in Cincinnati if youre into art, design, or history. The American Sign Museum holds what could possibly be the best collection of American advertising relics this side of Madison Avenue. Like moths to a wellneon sign, its our first stop from the airport, such is its allure.
As we pull up in the taxi, we are hit with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, with a revamped Holiday Inn sign flashing brightly, a beacon drawing us into the car park of the Cincinnati Sign Museum. Were not even inside and theres already every indication that bigger is best when it comes to American signage history like a larger-than-life fiberglass pig on a trailer.
Watched over by an enormous genie chilling next to a neon hammer, a concrete bowling pin, and some pretty awesome hand-painted vintage signage, the American Sign Museum sign is probably the least impressive piece youll see. Luckily youre in for a treat the moment you enter. Staffed by a passionate team of neon devotees, were given a brief background, opting to wander alone and rather than taking a tour.
Some highlights for us included visiting the workshop to see where the signs were lovingly restored, along with the tools of the trade, an original big boy, and a neon sign from the first McDonalds store.
American Sign Museum Cincinnati Ohio
Looking for something fun to do with the family? Indoor museums are the perfect way to make some family memories and stay warm! Wouldnt it be fun to stroll down a city street and see the neon signs from the 1950s or take your picture in front of one of the earliest McDonalds signs? Well if you are in Cincinnati, Ohio, visiting the American Sign Museum you can do all this and more! Recently, we took a quick road trip up to Cincinnati and toured the American Sign Museum. This place deserves to be on every travelers bucket list!
Tickets were received to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. No monetary compensation was received. Amazon affiliate links are included to help you.
An Underrated Museum In Cincinnati That You Need To Visit
Cincinnati offers incredible museums throughout the city, but there is one museum in the city that tends to be known more by tourists than locals.
That underrated museum is the American Sign Museum. The American Sign Museum provides education and celebrates the art of sign making.
As a local, I was immediately mad at myself for not visiting the museum sooner!
It truly is a unique gem that is very special to our city.
The outside of the building sets the tone of the vintage signs you will see.
The inside of the museum is like walking down memory lane. Its amazing how the signs connect to the history of each person who visits.
Our family walked around the museum for a bit on our own before taking the tour.
The American Sign Museum is a labor of love from its founder Tod Swormstedt, former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.
He wanted a place to preserve signs where guests could appreciate the art and untold stories of these incredible time capsules of history.
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History Of The American Sign Museum
The museum was founded by Tod Swormstedt in 1999, which he claimed began as a mid-life crisis project. The museum was originally called the National Signs of the Times Museum, but following much support and growth it was renamed and re-opened as the American Sign Museum in 2005.
The museum originally resided in an arts center, but as the collection expanded and as Tod acquired larger signs, the collection was eventually moved to its current home in a much larger facility in Camp Washington that offered 28-foot tall ceilings to accommodate the larger signs.
In 2012, the museums doors opened once again to the public.
Today the museum fills over 20,000 square feet of space and more signs continue to find their way into the collection each year. Tod and the museum continue to be proud of their mission to celebrate the rich history of American signage through preservation and education.
Walk Through The Downtown Street
One of the fun parts of the museum is the downtown city street with all the neon lights and signs from the mid 1900s. Talk about a walk down memory lane.
Or you could challenge your sister to an old-school game of arm wrestling Who won this match? Im sure the answer would vary based on who you ask!
This would be a fun place to sit in the little table and chairs that are provided and listen to your parents and grandparents talk about their memories of when these signs were common.
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American Sign Museum: Cincinnati Oh
From the moment you pull into the parking lot of the American Sign Museum, you know youre in for a fun treat!
There are some fun photo opps that you should definitely not rush past.
The American Sign Museum is dedicated to the art and history of signs and sign making. The museum is proud to be the largest public museum dedicated to signs in the United States! Covering more than 100 years of American sign history in 20,000 square feet of indoor space, the museum is a walk through the ages of sign technologies and designs. Some signs, still in their original shipping crates, remain pristine. Others proudly retain a weathered look.
A visit to the American Sign Museum will take you through the history and evolution of advertising and signs. When you first enter, you will see that advertising has changed since the 1900s. Advertising may be associated now with bright lights and flashing digital screens, but in the early days, it was a bit closer related to shapes of familiar objects and hand painted signs.
Can you imagine the time it took to create these intricate gold leaf patterns in the glass and on the mirrors?
You can even walk through the workshop and see where the sign restoration process is happening!
Ways To Support Throughout The Year
As a 501 non-profit, your contribution to the American Sign Museums Annual Fund is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Your support of the Museum means additional funds to support our mission to further the story of the signmaker craft and its impact on our nations history.
Thank you in advance for your continued support!
SUPPORT ASM WITH AMAZON SMILE AND KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS
Support the American Sign Museum with no additional cost whenever you shop at Amazon or Kroger. Simply click on the logo below, login to your account, and select American Sign Museum.
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The American Sign Museum Is A Bright Shiny Slice Of Living History
Even if youâve lived in Cincinnati all your life, chances are, youâve never visited the American Sign Museum. A passion project of founder Tod Swormstedt, who was the fourth-generation editor of Signs of the Times magazine, the museum began in 1999 and moved into its permanent home in Camp Washington in 2012. Easily one of Cincinnatiâs best-kept secrets, discovering this museum is a totally wonderful, magical experience. And in 2021, we can all use a little magic in our lives.
The American Sign Museum celebrates the art that went into the bright, eye-catching signs in the first half of the 20th century. There are elegant glass signs from the early 1900s, âpre-neonâ signs from the teens and â20s, and bold neon numbers from the â30s, â40s and â50s.
The American Sign Museum is a bright, shiny slice of living history thatâs as accessible to kids as it is to adults. These two- and three-dimensional displays are the original iPads they blink, flash, and spin, much to any kidâs delight. The signs all feature something that will appeal to younger audiences: recognizable imagery from popular culture , known objects and vivid, bold colors.
A couple things youâll want to be aware of before you go: advanced timed-ticket entry is required for everyone face masks and temperature checks are required upon entering the museum and guided tours are temporarily cancelled.
American Sign Museum, 1330 Monmouth Ave., Camp Washington, 541-6366
Exploring The American Sign Museum
Upon entering the museum, youll notice a small gift shop that sells a variety of Cincinnati-based knickknacks including posters, books, postcards, and old toys. Walk a little further and youll come up to the front desk where you can get your tickets.
Once you enter the main exhibit area, youll be met with an eclectic mix of signs, including old gas station signs, drug store signs, road markers, and more.
Nearly all of the signs have small tables in front of them that explain their history, including what they were once used for along with how the museum actually managed to acquire them.
For history buffs, its possible to spend well over an hour in the museum if you take the time to read about the history of each individual sign.
The museum also houses a working neon shop where the founder, Tod, and other employees can often be found working on repairing old signs that need a little help getting back to their former glory.
If you pop in and look around this shop area, dont be surprised if Tod himself strikes up a conversation with you about the history of some of the signs. Hes passionate about his work and is eager to share his passion with others.
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