Kentucky Historical Society Now a Smithsonian Affiliate

Interior of the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, KY
Interior of the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, KY

The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) is now an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The announcement was made by the Smithsonian Affiliations director, Harold A. Closter, Saturday, June 29, as part of the annual Boone Day celebration in Frankfort. That was followed by a discussion, “New Directions for the Smithsonian and KHS: What do we have in Common?” Participants included Closter; Tim Grove, Chief of Museum Learning, National Air and Space Museum; and Erika Ferrin, Brand Marketing Manager, Smithsonian Institution. WTVQ ABC 36 news anchor, Doug High, served as moderator.

Affiliation is different from being part of the institute’s museum and research complex. As an affiliate, KHS will be working in partnership to develop new ways to tell the story of Kentucky history. According to director, Kent Whitworth, the educational programs already in place at KHS, combined with the Smithsonian’s extensive resources, “will be a bold new opportunity for Kentucky history.”

The historical society will also be able to participate in the exchange of traveling exhibitions. Items on loan from the Smithsonian will be displayed at KHS and vice versa. This will promote local interest and tourism, and help spread the word about the work done by both organizations.

KHS is known for its extensive collections relating to Kentucky. Founded in 1836, it has been committed to sharing the state’s history. In keeping with that commitment, the affiliation announcement was made on a day set aside to celebrate frontiersman and explorer, Daniel Boone. He founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky after blazing a trail through the Cumberland Gap. This trail, known as Wilderness Road, was the main pathway west for settlers during the late 18th century.

Three buildings are a part of the historical society, and each building tells history in its own way. The Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History combines over 3,000 artifacts with sight and sound to portray Kentucky from prehistoric times to present day. The Old State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark, houses the paintings and decorative arts of 19th-century Kentuckians. The Kentucky Military History Museum at the State Arsenal displays items and personal stories of veterans from the War of 1812 to recent conflicts.

The Smithsonian established its affiliations’ program in 1996 as national outreach designed for long-term partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations. This two-way relationship benefits communities all across the country. There are currently 177 Smithsonian affiliates in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama.

Cynthia Collins, Museum Correspondent

Kentucky Historical Society