Friday, January 19, 2001

Museum getting $1M

Federated aids Underground Railroad center

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Federated Department Stores Foundation will announce today a $1 million gift to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

        The contribution will be used to support the Freedom Center's capital campaign and sponsor its new Web site — — which debuts today.

        Jim Zimmerman, Federated chairman and CEO, said both the foundation's funds and its employees' time are widely given to support America's youth. He sees the gift as an extension of that involvement.

[photo] This drawing shows the interior of the museum.
| ZOOM |
        Federated, which has corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, is one of the nation's leading department store retailers, with sales of more than $17.7 billion. It operates more than 400 department stores including Lazarus, Bloomingdale, The Bon Marche and Macy's.

        “This is a tremendous project that we believe will open the eyes and hearts of future generations of Americans,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

        The Freedom Center, a 158,000-square-foot museum to be built on the Cincinnati riverfront, is scheduled to open in spring 2004. It will have three separate but connected pavilions and will highlight the Underground Railroad's stories of courage and cooperation in the quest for freedom.

        The Federated Foundation joins lead donors such as Procter & Gamble, Cinergy and Toyota — all contributing $1 million or more — to bring the total raised to about $62 million, Freedom Center officials said Thursday.

        The goal is $90 million. When the Freedom Center reaches 75 percent of that goal, organizers will start the public campaign.

    Donors that have contributed $1 million or more to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center:

    • Federated Department Store Foundation
    • Procter & Gamble
    • John and Francie Pepper
    • Fifth Third Bank
    • Boeing Co. Charitable Trust
    • Cinergy
    • The Schott Foundation
    • Toyota
    • Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

        “It moves us that much closer,” said Freedom Center spokesman Ernest Britton. ""It's a leap.”

        The Freedom Center will be one of four anchors in the $2 billion Ohio riverfront redevelopment. The others are Paul Brown Stadium, Great American Ball Park and The Banks, a housing and entertainment neighborhood.

        At today's announcement, Freedom Center organizers will give the public a detailed look at the Web site. Its design will target students, teachers, American history buffs and researchers.

        Slavery's past and the issues of freedom and slavery today will be featured.

        Web visitors can take a virtual tour of the exterior of the building. Words from the late Walter Blackburn of Blackburn Architects, the leading firm on the project, will describe how the power of the Underground Railroad story and the message of the center were infused into the structure and grounds themselves.

        Students will be able to use it as a resource for homework assignments and research. Teachers can share curriculum plans and observe projects from around the country, including the Freedom Center's online school project.

        “Our Web presence will never replace the onsite visitation to the Freedom Center,” said Ed Rigaud, museum president and CEO. “But our research and planning over the past year has taught us how best to meet the online interests of our visitors from around the U.S.”

        The Web site also is designed to maximize the collection of personal stories. In the history section called “Slavery's Past,” visitors are encouraged to share their own family stories of the Underground Railroad.


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