John Fleming, PhD
Museum Consultant, Dr. John E. Fleming retired from Cincinnati Museum Center in 2007 after serving as vice president of museums for six years.
One of John’s first tasks was to direct the planning for our exhibit on Civil Unrest in Cincinnati: Voices of Our Community. The exhibit provided a history of civil unrest in Cincinnati; video interviews with city officials, police officers, and community members; television news coverage; the role of talk radio; and resources for resolving conflict. The purpose of the exhibit was to educate, create dialogue among visitors and assist in gaining understanding about issues facing Cincinnati. The exhibit opened just 90 days after the tragic events of April, his first week on the job.
John also lead the Cincinnati Museum Center team in developing the content of the Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship with National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International. After problems with the initial focus of the exhibit, the team assembled an advisory committee of African American, slave trade, nautical and piracy historians to review the proposed content and suggest ways so that the complete story of the Whydah could be told. The committee’s work was successful and the exhibit had its world premiere at Cincinnati Museum Center.
After joining the staff of the Ohio Historical Society in 1980, John led the planning for the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce. The museum opened in 1988 with the permanent exhibit, From Victory to Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties. The 1991 book, Ideas and Images: Developing Interpretive History Exhibits, devotes a chapter to the development of the museum and the permanent exhibit. Dr. Clement Alexander Price acknowledges the crucial role that John played: “Undoubtedly the most important and persistent driving force behind the shaping of both the museum and its inaugural exhibition was the director, John Fleming, whose extraordinary career symbolizes at once the emergence of black museum expertise in the years between the modern civil rights and the Reagan eras and the triumph of the new black history in American museums.”
In 1998 John became the first director and chief operating officer for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. During his tenure John worked with the architects in designing the building and the designers to formulate the exhibits. Dr. Alan Gallay reviewed the Freedom Center in 2006: “The exhibits are well done; schoolchildren and adults will find them engaging and education. In fact, the museum is a model for how to reach effectively across age categories.”
Throughout his career John has been active in a variety of professional organizations. He served as president of both the Ohio Museums Association, the African American Museums Association and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. His committee work includes the American Association of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, the Association of Midwest Museums, the Knight Foundation, and the Journal of Negro History.
In 2005 John published A Summer Remembered: A Memoir, his coming-of-age autobiography. Earlier works include three books on affirmative action, four entries in the 1996 Encyclopedia of African American Education, six entries in the 1982 Dictionary of American Negro Biography and 26 other articles.
After 27 years in the museum field working diligently to bring the rich history of African Americans to a wide and diverse audience in Ohio and across the country he created a private consulting practice which has included prestigious institutions and acclaimed special exhibits.