Kentucky’s finest museums explore a range of colorful subjects, from artisan quilt-making to regional caves and bluegrass music. Visitors will discover both strange and wonderful artifacts throughout these galleries, among them a 19th-century mechanical model of the universe, the fiddle of bluegrass legend Bill Monroe and the last telephone owned by Adolph Hitler.
Bluegrass Music Museum
Rooted in the folk music of Appalachia, bluegrass music contains elements of Irish, Scottish and English traditional music. Like jazz, the genre is characterized by improvisation and complex chord transitions. It was first brought to the world stage during the 1930s by legendary fiddler Bill Monroe, who later became known as the Father of Bluegrass.
Based in Owensboro, the International Bluegrass Museum and Hall of Fame is the only museum in the world dedicated to this eclectic genre. Though now located in the RiverPark Center complex, the museum plans to open its own 50,000-square-foot facility next summer.
Once the new facility opens, guided tours will be offered daily. Groups can supplement their experience by scheduling a live performance from a local bluegrass band. As visitors explore the exhibits, they will learn about the history of bluegrass as well as the instruments that helped shape it. One of the prized artifacts on display is the first fiddle ever owned by Monroe.
“Many people are familiar with the artists, but not a whole lot of people know about the history of the instruments, which came from all over the world,” said Katie Keller, marketing director at the museum. “The timeline is really neat because you see how immigrants influenced bluegrass.”
Every Saturday night, the theater will host bluegrass jam sessions and concerts that will feature everything from traditional acts to more progressive groups that incorporate electric instruments and other genres like rock and roll.
Kentucky Historical Society
Travelers can trace over 250 years of Kentucky history in the beautiful state capital of Frankfort, and the best place to start is with the Kentucky Historical Society historical campus, which comprises three landmark attractions located within a block of one another: The Thomas D. Clark Museum for Kentucky History, the Old State Capitol and the Kentucky Military History Museum. Groups can purchase one ticket to visit all three sites.
According to Laurel Harper, director of marketing and communications for the Kentucky Historical Society, these museums enable visitors to experience the “breadth and depth of Kentucky history, and how much the state has contributed to [the] growth of the nation.”
The Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History takes visitors on a chronological journey through the state’s history, with more than 10,000 artifacts on display. In the Hall of Governors, guests can learn about Kentucky’s principal political leaders through interactive touch screens and videos, and in honor of Kentucky’s 250th anniversary of statehood celebrated throughout 2017.
Nearby, groups can tour the historic Old Capitol, where famed legislators like Henry Clay, Isaac Shelby and Thomas Metcalfe met during the mid-1800s. The Kentucky Military History Museum, housed in an old state military arsenal, reveals the personal narratives of Kentuckian soldiers from the American Revolution to modern day.