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Western Kentucky University

The Kentucky Museum – Current Exhibits

Current  Exhibits                                                           Around Campus          Upcoming Exhibits

Snake Rocker

Chester Cornett: Beyond the Narrow Sky

September 13 - November 9, 2014

Organized by the Folk Art Center at Morehead State University, this traveling exhibition features the works of famed chair maker Chester Cornett. In his lifetime Cornett pushed the form of the traditional Appalachian chair to its furthest limits. He made hundreds of chairs though only a few dozen are known to exist. Chester Cornett was a figure of great cultural interest in the 1960s and 1970s. Myths sprang up in his footsteps. He inspired writings by authors, poets, and scholars and in his native Kentucky Mountains and in Cincinnati, where he spent his last years, stories about him still persist.

Opening reception Friday, September 12 from 5:00-8:00


Woman smoking pipe
Saving the Orphans: Why Keep Unidentified Photos?

August 28 - December 12, 2014

It is often difficult for museums and libraries to justify keeping vintage photographs which include unidentified people or unknown locations. Who would ever use them? How would they be described for online users? Saving the Orphans examines any number of reasons why a photograph might be kept ranging from the clothing or jewelry being worn to vehicles, equipment, or buildings in the background, to the name of the photographer, older photographic processes, to the downright bizarre.

Photo Gallery

Faces and Places

“Faces & Places” features more than 40 quilts and other textiles that use images of people or the built environment or reflect a sense of place. George Washington, Henry Clay, the Puritans, and Don Quixote are some of the “faces” represented in the exhibit. Representations of the built environment include a school house, honeymoon cottages, and public structures. Several quilts reflect family and church associations. These depictions are accomplished through traditional quilting techniques such as piecework and applique as well as through the application of decorative embroidery stitches and the creative use of printed textiles.

Photo Gallery

Instruments of American Excellence

This exhibit features everyday objects used by people in many different fields to achieve extraordinary things. For example, an ordinary hammer was used by President Jimmy Carter to not only build houses for the homeless, but to raise the awareness of Habitat for Humanity. An ordinary paint brush was used by Thomas Kincade to paint the most commercially successful scenes of American life available today.

Photo Gallery

More about the Instruments of American Excellence exhibit


Hoarded Wealth & Invested Profits in Arochuwu, Glasgow, and Virginia: Legacies of the 18th Century Transatlantic Trades in Slaves & Tobacco

This project is co-curated by the WKU Gallery Studies Class, Department of Art, and Dr. Johnston Akuma-Kalu Njoku, Professor of Folk Studies. Using Dr. Njoku’s written articles and photographs, the class translated this compelling research on the legacies of the Triangular Trade into a visual exhibition. His research examines the folklore and material culture surrounding the Igbo slave journeys from their villages in the interior of the former Slave Coast to the United States.

An American Educator in Liberia: The Collection of Dr. Daniel Hays

Dr. Hays, a native of Bowling Green and a WKU alumnus, worked to develop public schools in the rural interior of Liberia during the 1950s and 60s as part of his job with the USAID.  During that time, Hays and his family accumulated a large collection of memorabilia including traditional musical instruments, games, furnishings, sacred objects, and tourist art.  Hays's daughter, Coppelia Hays, generously donated the collection and now visitors can learn about this spirited Kentuckian and the Liberian communities he lived with, worked with, and regarded as friends and family.

This exhibit is a project of the 2012 Fall Semester Museums Studies Class, WKU Department of Folk Studies & Anthropology with support from the Kentucky Museum.

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oriental artifacts
Kentuckians Travel

Traveling outside the young nation was uncommon in Kentucky's early years. By the Civil War Kentuckians traveled to Europe on diplomatic missions. Travel to Europe for pleasure became more popular after the war.

Wealthy Kentuckians joined other Americans in the Grand Tour of Europe by the 1880s, and soon Kentuckians were traversing the globe. Whether hunting in Africa or on a school trip to Mongolia, teaching in Japan or developing schools in South America, people from south central Kentucky brought back mementos of their travels.

Photo Gallery

Snell-Franklin Decorative Arts Gallery

The Kentucky Museum has many unusual and interesting objects in its collections. All of the objects in this exhibition are related to Kentucky in some way; they were made here, retailed here, or they might be part of a collection put together by a Kentuckian. This gallery displays furniture relation in time and style with silver, glass, ceramics, paintings and anthropological items, which were used to decorate homes at different periods in history.

Photo Gallery

A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky

The Civil War, 1861-1865, split the nation apart along the lines of slavery. Kentucky, a southern state with strong ties to north and south, was caught in the middle. This wonderful interactive exhibit explores the Civil War in Kentucky.

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Recommended by Duncan Hines

"Recommended by Duncan Hines" will include 11 sections featuring the life and work of the Bowling Green native. An extensive collection of artifacts will be on hand including the outstanding collection from the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. The exhibit features these artifacts along with state-of the art media tools so visitors will learn about Hines’ career as a writer on travel, dining and entertaining, as well as his transition to a "name brand" icon and pioneer in the world of packaged food.

Photo Gallery

Video Transcript


Felts log house
Felts Log House

This log house, built about 1815, is a classic example of traditional Kentucky architecture. The double-pen, two story structure with its dog-trot floor plan and poplar, oak, and walnut construction are typical of the folk architecture of the region. The structure interprets life in rural south central Kentucky in the eighteen-teens using reproduction household furnishings and equipment, tools, and clothing accurate to the period.

Photo Gallery

L. Y. Lancaster Gun Collection

Thirteen guns in two cases tell the story of how a hobby can make a person an authority. Dr. L. Y. Lancaster (1893-1980), best known as a professor of biological sciences and a mentor of pre-med students at Western Kentucky University for 37 years, collected and restored 19th flintlock and percussion lock long rifles. The earliest dated gun in the case is a flintlock from the late 1820s. For many Kentuckians, this case provides their first look at a double barrel shotgun.

Hascal Haile: Guitar-maker to the Stars

Monroe County, Kentucky native Hascal "Hack" Haile (1906-1986) began making guitars professionally after retiring from furniture making in the late 1960s. A lifelong musician, he made guitars for classical artists and country musicians alike. This special exhibition case features two of Haile's guitars; an acoustic folk guitar (1983) and a solid body amplified acoustic guitar (1982). Haile received national attention when in 1980 the Smithsonian Institution accepted one of his guitars for its Hall of Musical Instruments and President Jimmy Carter received him at the White House.

Taking the Mystery Out of Prehistory

Long before the first written history in Kentucky, people lived and hunted there. This small exhibit identifies tools, cooking utensils, and ornaments made and used by prehistoric Kentuckians. Ordinary and unusual objects of stone, bone, pottery, and fiber are included and a special display of projectile points identifies spear and arrow tips that span 10,000 years of Kentucky prehistory.

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 Last Modified 9/25/14