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Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012

Underground Railroad center merges into Cincinnati museum


CINCINNATI -- The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is getting help with long-standing financial problems through a merger into the Cincinnati Museum Center's corporate structure and from a $1.8 million grant.

The Museum Center's board of trustees recently approved a resolution allowing it to become the Freedom Center's parent organization with financial oversight of the national center.

The merging of the organizations' operations allows savings intended to provide financial stability for the Freedom Center.

It also will eliminate a $1.5 million annual budget shortfall, Elizabeth Pierce, a Museum Center spokesman, said Friday.

Freedom Center officials said last year that the annual shortfall could force the center to close by the end of 2012 if the money wasn't found.

The Freedom Center, which opened in 2004, also said that although attendance was up slightly in 2011 over the previous year, it has declined since it reached a peak in 2005.

Museum Center officials have said the partnership offers financial strength and new opportunities for both organizations.

The Museum Center houses a history museum, a children's museum, and a natural history and science museum.

The Freedom Center, which is now its fourth wholly owned subsidiary, focuses on the 19th century Underground Railroad for escaping slaves and on freedom throughout the world.

The Freedom Center will remain responsible for its fund-raising, programming, and efforts to enhance its image.

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