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The Columbus Dispatch: Kentucky museum, Ordinary stuff had extraordinary uses

The Columbus Dispatch: Kentucky museum, Ordinary stuff had extraordinary uses

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At first glance, a new museum exhibit in Kentucky seems to be an assortment of ordinary stuff: a hammer, shoes, scientific instruments. On closer inspection, these unassuming items achieved the extraordinary.

The collection at Western Kentucky University’s Bowling Green campus features more than 140 common items used by luminaries in entertainment, politics, art, literature, sports and science.

There’s equipment used by explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic; a film splicer from documentarian Ken Burns’ editing room; and dance shoes worn by Liza Minnelli in a Tony award-winning performance.

Also included is a hammer used by former President Jimmy Carter to build Habitat for Humanity houses.

The permanent exhibit — called the “Instruments of American Excellence Collection” — opened Sept. 21 at the Kentucky Museum.

The collection is the brainchild of Dan Murph, a country songwriter who lives near the campus.

Murph hopes the exhibit inspires visitors to pursue their own ambitions.

“If the collection causes just one person to re-evaluate their career path or dream bigger or come up with a new idea or dare to try something they always wanted to try, then the collection is a total success.”

About three-quarters of those contacted have contributed, university President Gary Ransdell said.

There’s a studio microphone used by Sam Phillips to record the early hits of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn. There’s a fiddle from Charlie Daniels, a customized baton from Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and ballet shoes worn by acclaimed ballerina Sara Mearns.

The items signify the hard work that went into their endeavors, Ransdell said.

“Sometimes greatness can be achieved with the simplest of instruments or tools, if you’ve got the mind, the heart and the spirit to put those tools to work.”

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 Last Modified 5/2/17