Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Please see below for details and descriptions of upcoming events at the Filson.  All events times are in EST or EDT depending on the season. Please check each event for details.  Click here to register and pay for programs, tickets are required. Filson members will need to log in to access the member pricing for events.  Many of our past events can be viewed on the Filson YouTube Channel.

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America

Date: September 27, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Virtual Lecture via Zoom
How the Word is Passed

Offered in collaboration with the Louisville Urban League

Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

It is the story of the Monticello Plantation in Virginia, the estate where Thomas Jefferson wrote letters espousing the urgent need for liberty while enslaving more than four hundred people. It is the story of the Whitney Plantation, one of the only former plantations devoted to preserving the experience of the enslaved people whose lives and work sustained it. It is the story of Angola, a former plantation-turned-maximum-security prison in Louisiana that is filled with Black men who work across the 18,000-acre land for virtually no pay. And it is the story of Blandford Cemetery, the final resting place of tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view—whether in places we might drive by on our way to work, holidays such as Juneteenth, or entire neighborhoods like downtown Manhattan, where the brutal history of the trade in enslaved men, women, and children has been deeply imprinted.

Informed by scholarship and brought to life by the story of people living today, Smith’s debut work of nonfiction is a landmark of reflection and insight that offers a new understanding of the hopeful role that memory and history can play in making sense of our country and how it has come to be.

Clint Smith is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and the poetry collection Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.

Frederick Law Olmsted: Bringing Nature to the City and Creating Breathing Space for Democracy

Date: October 6, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)
Laurence Cotton-1

April 26, 2022 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted, the master designer of public parks and a founder of the field landscape architecture. Join historian and filmmaker Laurence Cotton (originator of and consulting producer to the PBS special “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America” as he does a deep dive into the remarkable life and career of the Renaissance-man Olmsted–writer, philosopher, social reformer, advocate for the preservation of natural scenery, and creator of some of the most beautiful public and private parks and gardens in all of N. America. Laurence will also give a visual tour of representative masterful landscapes designed by Olmsted, Senior, as well as his two sons and the Olmsted Bros. landscape architecture firm, as the footprint of their works literally stretch across the entire continent of N. America. Additionally, Laurence will offer an additional tour of select Olmsted landscapes in the Midwest and Mississippi/Ohio River corridors.

Laurence Cotton, currently based in Portland, Oregon, a city that benefits from an Olmsted-master planned park system, originally hails from Boston, renowned for its Olmsted landscapes and the home base for generations.

The Filson’s Haunting Fireside Stories

Date: October 14, 2022
Time: 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: Oxmoor Farm (In-Person Only)
My project-1

Join the Filson Historical Society for a haunting storytelling event at Oxmoor Farm. Col. Bob Thompson, Mary Hamilton, and Them Calloways will share spooky regional stories.

Dread, deception, death and dismemberment – these are ingredients in Kentucky tales that have fed nightmares for generations. Mary’s haunting story repertoire includes mostly Kentucky tales, retold in her conversational storytelling style. She won’t have time to tell her full repertoire of haunting tales, so she’ll make her final story selections based on the composition of our audience.

Bob will tell personal stories of growing up, coming of age and other adventures. His stories are rooted in far western Kentucky and at the confluence of the Twilight Zone and Huckleberry Finn, where glimpses and passages through the veil between dimensions often occur. His stories are meant as witness to conversations and energies flowing through the boundary layer of time. From any single dimensional perspective, Bob’s stories might seem, ‘beyond reality’, and from that viewpoint, of course they are.

Barbara and Robert will tell a true, haunting tale that spans from 1917 to the present day. It will be told in two parts and will include some spooky musical interludes.

When Mary Hamilton takes the stage, the show unfolds in the hearts and minds of the audience. In her straightforward “just talking” style, Mary uses her voice and her body to tell stories. Audiences watch, listen, imagine, and create worlds. Hamilton, a professional storyteller, lives in Frankfort and grew up in Meade County, Kentucky. Storytelling has been her profession since 1983. Her work has been recognized by numerous awards, including a Circle of Excellence ORACLE Award—equal to a hall of fame for storytellers—from the National Storytelling Network.

Bob Thompson is an author, storyteller, engineer, handyman, dome builder, tree hugger and explorer of other dimensions. He was born on the banks of the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky, 86 years after his Great-Great Grandfather died at the exact spot during the Battle of Paducah. He is the author of two books, Hitchhiker, Stories from the Kentucky Homefront and Stitched Together, Stories from a Kentucky life, both published by the University Press of Kentucky. Retired from nothing except his 30-year engineering-technical-storytelling career, Col. Bob is the self-appointed “Commissioner of Kentucky Front porches” and was the “Resident Front-Porch Philosopher” on the long-running WFPK, Radio Louisville, radio show “Kentucky Homefront”.

Barbara and Robert Calloway – aka “Them Calloways” are a husband-and-wife duo who are retired and now living their best life making music together and telling stories. Besides being a business owner, Barbara led the Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tour for 13 years, and as a teacher, Robert taught storytelling and traveled with his students to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tennessee.

Backwoods Modernity: Kentucky’s Role in the Rise of Country Music and Media

Date: October 18, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)
Record Cultures

The emergence of country music (first known as “old-time music” and then “hillbilly”) seemed an unlikely return to rural tradition in the jazz-age 1920s. But if the genre was founded in nostalgia, it also embraced modern media: phonograph records and radio. During a time of great change, Kentucky performers and businesspeople negotiated the contradictions inherent in country’s rise. This presentation recounts little-known stories from Kentucky recording history, including Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts surprisingly long recording career (and short radio career), an angry fan’s letter to recording and radio star Bradley Kincaid over hillbilly stereotypes, and Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family’s storefront recording session on Louisville’s Main Street.

Kyle Barnett is an associate professor of media studies in Bellarmine University’s Department of Communication. He has published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Music, Sound and the Moving Image, the Journal of Material Culture, and several book anthologies. His first book, Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry (University of Michigan Press), was named 2021’s best historical research on record labels and general recording history by the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC).

A Nation of Descendants: Politics and the Practice of Genealogy in U. S. History

Date: October 25, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

From family trees written in early American bibles to birther conspiracy theories, genealogy has always mattered in the United States, whether for taking stock of kin when organizing a family reunion or drawing on membership—by blood or other means—to claim rights to land, inheritances, and more. And since the advent of DNA kits that purportedly trace genealogical relations through genetics, millions of people have used them to learn about their medical histories, biological parentage, and ethnic background.

A Nation of Descendants traces Americans’ fascination with tracking family lineage through three centuries. Francesca Morgan examines how specific groups throughout history grappled with finding and recording their forebears, focusing on Anglo-American white, Mormon, African American, Jewish, and Native American people. Morgan also describes how individuals and researchers use genealogy for personal and scholarly purposes, and she explores how local businesspeople, companies like Ancestry.com, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Finding Your Roots series powered the commercialization and commodification of genealogy.

Francesca Morgan is associate professor of history at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and author of Women and Patriotism in Jim Crow America.

Crowdsourcing Early America

Date: November 1, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

The Filson’s NEH-funded First American West project uses the power of its members and supporters to provide greater access to its early Kentucky collections than ever before. Large-scale volunteer transcription, “crowdsourcing,” is an exciting way for students, researchers, and learners of all ages to participate in archival and historical work. Join the Filson’s Patrick Lewis and our partners at FromThePage, Sara Brumfield and Ben Brumfield, to discuss the Filson’s crowdsourcing effort and the successes and challenges of other FromThePage projects. This program is presented through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and its Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan initiative.

Sara Brumfield is a software engineer and entrepreneur. She co-founded FromThePage, a crowdsourced transcription platform that allows institutions to share documents for transcription. Prior to founding FromThePage, she spent 17 years as a software engineer with IBM, inventing or co-inventing eight patents. She has a BA in Computer Science and the Study of Women and Gender from Rice University.

Ben Brumfield is a partner at Brumfield Labs, a software consultancy specializing in crowdsourcing and digital editions. In 2005, he began developing one of the first web-based manuscript transcription systems. Released as the open-source tool FromThePage, it has since been used by libraries, museums, and universities to transcribe literary drafts, military diaries, herpetology field notes, and punk rock fanzines. He has written and presented on crowdsourced manuscript transcription for over a decade. He received a B.A. in Computer Science and Linguistics from Rice University.

Patrick A. Lewis is the Director of Collections and Research at the Filson Historical Society.

Exhibit Opening – Olde England on the Ohio: Louisville’s Tudor Revival

Date: November 4, 2022
Time: 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person Only)

Join the Filson Historical Society for the opening of the latest exhibit, Olde England on the Ohio. Louisville’s Tudor Revival. Participants will have the opportunity to meet the curators in the gallery to engage in conversation and answer questions. This a free event open to the public but registration is required.

Louisville’s residents and visitors often note the city’s proliferation of Tudor Revival architecture. From homes to businesses, churches to charities, Louisville has retained an impressive Tudor Revival collection, including several neighborhoods where it is the dominant style.

Olde England on the Ohio: Louisville’s Tudor Revival uses Louisville as a microcosm of a larger national movement that peaked in the 1920s and early 1930s. Tudor Revival not only manifested through architecture, but also in consumer products and popular culture. The exhibit shows the range of ways Americans looked to recreate a near-mythic “Merrie Olde England” in the early twentieth century.

Importantly, it was no accident that this turn towards an imaginary English past coincided with a wave of Eastern European immigrants, a massive African-American migration to northern cities, and the refinement of continued systems of racial, religious, and ethnic injustice. Many explicitly saw Tudor Revival as a way of claiming and elevating Anglo-Saxon heritage for a select few.

But in Louisville these attempts ultimately failed. Olde England on the Ohio demonstrates how diverse groups across the city used Tudor Revival to make their own assertations about belonging and participation in American culture. The objects, images, and artifacts we have gathered ultimately suggest that Tudor Revival succeeded as a movement built from the ground up, not the top down. We hope you will visit us to explore this eye-opening and entertaining exhibit.

This exhibit is guest curated by Dr. Daniel Gifford, a public historian who focuses on American popular and visual culture, as well as museums in American culture. He received his Ph.D. from George Mason University in 2011 and serves on the Filson Historical Society’s Board of Directors.

Notable Louisville Neighborhoods: Opportunities and Future of the Butchertown Neighborhood

Date: November 7, 2022
Time: 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: TEN20 Craft Brewery (In-Person Only)

Sponsored by The Eye Care Institute, JBS USA, Stock Yards Bank & Trust, Butchertown Market Building, Work the Metal, and Cave Hill Cemetery.

Notable Louisville Neighborhoods and the People Who Put Them on the Map is a series designed with community input focusing on one neighborhood a year.  The goal of the series is to connect people with history in a meaningful, relevant way and to highlight the resources available at the Filson.

In the final installment of this series, we focus on exciting recent and future developments in Butchertown. Andy Blieden, a local business owner, Michael Mountjoy with the Louisville City FC, and Michael King, Director of the Office of Advanced Planning and Sustainability, will talk about all that Butchertown has to offer now and in the future.

Light refreshments and networking will begin at 5:00 pm, with the presentation beginning at 6:00 pm.

Dine and Dialogue – Bonds of War: How Civil War Financial Agents Sold the World on the Union

Date: November 17, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

How does one package and sell confidence in the stability of a nation riven by civil strife? This was the question that loomed before the Philadelphia financial house of Jay Cooke & Company, entrusted by the US government with an unprecedented sale of bonds to finance the Union war effort in the early days of the American Civil War. How the government and its agents marketed these bonds revealed a version of the war the public was willing to buy and buy into, based not just in the full faith and credit of the United States but also in the success of its armies and its long-term vision for open markets. From Maine to California, and in foreign halls of power and economic influence, thousands of agents were deployed to sell a clear message: Union victory was unleashing the American economy itself.

This fascinating work of financial and political history during the Civil War era shows how the marketing and sale of bonds crossed the Atlantic to Europe and beyond, helping ensure foreign countries’ vested interest in the Union’s success. Indeed, David K. Thomson demonstrates how Europe, and ultimately all corners of the globe, grew deeply interdependent on American finance during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the American Civil War.

David K. Thomson is assistant professor of history at Sacred Heart University.

Watergate: A New History

Date: November 29, 2022
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Brown Theatre (In-Person and Hybrid Options)

Part of the Gertrude Polk Brown Lecture Series

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Plane in the Sky, comes the first definitive narrative history of Watergate—“the best and fullest account of the crisis, one unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)—exploring the full scope of the scandal through the politicians, investigators, journalists, and informants who made it the most influential political event of the modern era.

In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills enters six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that will change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police.

The subsequent arrests of five men seeking to bug and burgle the Democratic National Committee offices—three of them Cuban exiles, two of them former intelligence operatives—quickly unravels a web of scandal that ultimately ends a presidency and forever alters views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate, as the event is called, becomes a shorthand for corruption, deceit, and unanswered questions.

Now, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff explores the full scope of this unprecedented moment from start to finish, in the first comprehensive, single-volume account in decades.

The story begins in 1971, with the publication of thousands of military and government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which reveal dishonesty about the decades-long American presence in Vietnam and spark public outrage. Furious that the leak might expose his administration’s own duplicity during a crucial reelection season, President Richard M. Nixon gathers his closest advisors and gives them implicit instructions: Win by any means necessary.

Within a few months, an unsteady line of political dominoes are positioned, from the creation of a series of covert operations code-named GEMSTONE to campaign-trail dirty tricks, possible hostage situations, and questionable fundraising efforts—much of it caught on the White House’s own taping system. One by one they fall, until the thwarted June burglary attracts the attention of intrepid journalists, congressional investigators, and embattled intelligence officers, one of whom will spend decades concealing his identity behind the alias “Deep Throat.” As each faction slowly begins to uncover the truth, a conspiracy deeper and more corrupt than anyone thought possible emerges, and the nation is thrown into a state of crisis as its government—and its leader—unravels.

Using newly public documents, transcripts, and revelations, Graff recounts every twist with remarkable detail and page-turning drama, bringing readers into the backrooms of Washington, chaotic daily newsrooms, crowded Senate hearings, and even the Oval Office itself during one of the darkest chapters in American history.

Grippingly told and meticulously researched, Watergate is the defining account of the moment that has haunted our nation’s past—and still holds the power to shape its present and future.

Garrett M. Graff, a distinguished journalist and bestselling historian, has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security. Today, he serves as the director of cyber initiatives for The Aspen Institute and is a contributor to Wired, CNN, and Politico. He’s written for publications from Esquire to Rolling Stone to The New York Times, and edited two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and Politico. Graff is the author of multiple books, including The Threat Matrix, the national bestseller Raven Rock, and the New York Times bestseller The Only Plane in the Sky.