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What We Represent

The Filson’s museum collection represents the rich and varied history of Kentucky. Artifacts range from the pioneer, antebellum, Civil War, and postbellum periods of Kentucky’s history, including such highlights as a mid-nineteenth-century firefighting hand-pumper, “Kentucky Giant” Jim Porter’s seven-foot-nine-inch smoothbore musket, a genuine Kentucky “moonshine” still, Daniel Boone’s legendary “Kill a Bar” tree carving, handmade quilts, and Civil War uniforms, weapons, and accoutrements. The Filson’s art collection, which is displayed throughout the Ferguson mansion and carriage house museum, contains one of the most extensive collections of antebellum portraiture in Kentucky.

Like our other collections departments, we are regularly adding to our museum holdings. A particular emphasis is our art collection of Kentucky related portraiture, landscapes, and still lifes. Items from its collections are frequently loaned to museums throughout the country for temporary exhibition.

Current Exhibits

The Filson has three exhibits in its newly renovated space: (1) “To the Polls! Presidential Campaigns and Elections,” a collection of election memorabilia; (2) “Moments in Time: The Power of Pictures,” a sample slice of the Filson’s extensive photographic and film collections; and (3) “The Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Mountain Photograph Collection, 1882-1905,” photographs of Kentucky’s Appalachian region taken during the Kentucky Geological Survey and after in the late 19th and early 20th century. A tour of these exhibits is given daily at 2:00 p.m.

To the Polls! Presidential Campaigns and Elections – A timely exhibit, To the Polls is a collection of election memorabilia dating back to our country’s founding. Newspaper clippings, photographs, posters, broadsides, buttons, and even a pair of bobbleheads, these artifacts give an overview of the ways in which courting voters has evolved. The exhibit is organized by periods of expanding suffrage, with each new demographic gaining the right to vote changing how politicians approached their campaigns. Visitors will not only see items from each of these periods, but will learn about both the admirable and less admirable aspects of the democratic process.

Moments in Time: The Power of Pictures - The Filson’s photograph collection is composed of more than 100,000 photographic prints, negatives, slides, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes and includes work by both professional and amateur photographers. This exhibit documents photography from the mid-19th century to today, with the bulk of images depicting life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It demonstrates the diversity of the Filson’s photograph and film collections in both format and content. From candid snapshots to carefully composed portraits, these images tell stories of life in Kentucky and the surrounding states. The images in the exhibit were selected with consideration of aesthetic value as well as subject matter, uniqueness of format, and ability to surprise.

The Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Mountain Photograph Collection, 1882-1905 – The Mountain Photograph Collection primarily comprises photographs taken in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia. In 1882 Thruston was hired as a geological assistant under Albert Crandall of the Kentucky Geological Survey. The Survey’s goal was to explore and record the natural resources in Appalachian counties. The photographs in this exhibit were produced during the mid-1880s when Thruston and Crandall worked for the Kentucky Geological Survey, and from the 1890s through the early 20th century when Thruston continued to work and document Appalachia during his time with the Kentucky Union Land Company. The counties featured in this exhibit include: Bath, Bell, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Harlan, Knox, Letcher, Pike, Whitley, and Wolfe in Kentucky, and Wise and Lee in Virginia.

If you have a question about our museum’s holdings, please contact:

James Holmberg, Curator of Collections

We want to preserve your history!

If you have items that you would like to donate to The Filson, we want to hear from you. Please contact Collections Curator James J. Holmberg by email or at (502) 634-8846 for more information on how to donate to The Filson’s collections.

Museum Highlights
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