Western Kentucky University

Hays Liberian Donation

Coppelia Hays Liberian Donation

 

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Hays sorting though her donation with graduate student Rachel Hopkin, Dr. Williams, and Dr. Njoku. 

 

In September 2011 the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology was fortunate enough to receive a generous donation of Liberian artifacts from Coppelia Hays. Hays's father was from Bowling Green, KY and went to WKU. Hays herself finished her high school education at Warren Central and went to WKU for a year. How did a woman with so many ties to Bowling Green, KY ended up with a collection of Liberian artifacts? Hays's father worked as an educational ambassador for the United States Agency for International Development for over 40 years, which meant that the family traveled around the world. Coppelia was born in Liberia and lived there for her first nine and a half years while her father was appointed to develop public schools in the rural interior of Liberia. Luckily for the department, when Coppelia was trying to select a home for her donation, she immediately thought of WKU because of her connections to Bowling Green and WKU.

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Some of the collection being sorted by part of Dr. Williams's museum class.  


Hays's father was an advocate of education and instilled in her its importance. Thus, when Hays was looking to make a donation, she wanted a place that would value the artifacts and use it to educate the public, not just sit collecting dust in a storeroom. In an interview with graduate student Rachel Hopkin, Hays said, "I wanted them to be viewed by the general public and I wanted them to touch the hearts of people like they had touched my father's heart and how they have touched my heart." After talking to Folk Studies professor Dr. Njoku about the work he has done with the American Frontier Culture Museum and talking to Dr. Williams about how the donation would be handled, Hays knew she had found the right home for her collection in WKU's Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology.

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Dr. Njoku helping Mrs. Hays remember the specifics of a Liberian game while Rachel interviews them.  


After she decided to donate to Potter College's Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology, Hays and some members of the department spent a day going through her storage locker. The donation ended up filling a whole nineteen boxes. The donated items included weapons, tools, tourist art, musical instruments, sacred objects, status symbols, clothing, baskets, bags, board games, stools, masks, combs, elephant tails, and Christmas cards.

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Baskets and woven scoops from the collection; musical instruments from the collection.  


As Hays wished, her donation is on display. Dr. Williams's Museum Procedures and Preservation Techniques class, which is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students, created an exhibit that is displayed at the Kentucky Museum. This exhibit presents a small preview of the Hays Collection through the narratives of his family, friends, and colleagues. By acknowledging Dr. Hays' stories and accomplishments connected to the artifacts, visitors learn about this spirited Kentuckian and the Liberian communities he lived with, worked with, and regarded as friends and family. 

 Last Modified 7/22/13