Arts’ Watch: Nearby historic museums
Published 3:00 pm Saturday, November 12, 2022
BY Bill McCann
After what seems to be looking like a historic election in both Winchester—with the election of Jo Ellen Reed as mayor—and in Kentucky, where the Republican party increased its majorities in both houses of the General Assembly now seems like a good time to visit one or more of the state’s many history museums in this area of the state.
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Locally and nearby are several museums discussed in earlier columns Bluegrass Heritage Museum on Main Street and the Red River Museum in Clay City. Also in easy driving distance are the Montgomery County History Museum in Mt. Sterling, the Swamp Valley Museum in Frenchburg, and the Morehead History and Railroad Museum in Morehead. And in Paris are the Hopewell Museum and the Duncan Tavern Historic Center.
Out Kentucky 627, just across the river in Madison County, is the Kentucky River Museum located in an old house overlooking the dam at Fort Boonesborough State Park. Admission is included with access to the park. Unfortunately, the museum is only open annually from April 1 through October 31. Put this on your family’s Spring Break list of things to do.
Outside our area are many other local history museums. The best known is, no doubt, the Lexington History Museum in Fayette County’s old courthouse, not far from Rupp Arena and the Civic Center. But don’t overlook the Anderson County History Museum in Lawrenceburg; the Cynthiana Harrison County Museum on Walnut Street in downtown Cynthiana; the Capitol City Museum on Ann Street in downtown Frankfort; the Georgetown and Scott County Museum on East Main Street in Georgetown; and the Woodford County Historical Society Library and Museum on Rose Hill Ave. in Versailles.
The Swamp Valley Museum may be one of the state’s most unique museums. Located in rural Menifee County, this museum is a collection of local antiques and curiosities located in an old Civil War home on US 460 near Wellington in Menifee County. The cost of admission is $2. Museum hours are weather dependent. A brief video about the museum can be found at https://vimeo.com/190260991.
The seat of state government is also home to Kentucky’s history with three state-maintained museums: the Kentucky Historical Society, the Kentucky Military History Museum, and the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, all located within blocks of each other in downtown Frankfort. Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. tickets are available online or at the Kentucky History Center; one admission gets you into all three museums. Admission is $5 for adults, Youth, and Veterans, $3, and Children (5 and under) Free. Members of the Kentucky Historical Society are admitted free.
The Kentucky Historical Society is located in the Old State Capitol, where daily self-guided audio tours are available. However, on Saturdays at 2 pm, 30-minute guided tours of the building and grounds bring 19th and early 20th-century Kentucky political stories to life.
The Kentucky Military History Museum—in the downtown building that looks like a castle overlooking the river—is housed in what was once the State Arsenal and, during the Civil War, a munitions factory. Virtual tours of the museum are also available. For more information, visit https://history.ky.gov/explore/virtual-visitor.
The Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History is the gem of Frankfort history museums. It features two exhibit halls: A Kentucky Journey (temporarily closed for renovation) and the Kentucky Hall of Governors, as well as a research library and a gift shop. Special exhibits and events, including plays and speakers, make this a special place to visit. Open 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit https://history.ky.gov/visit/thomas-d-clark-center-for-kentucky-history.