Connecting the Dots: Exploring Your Family HistoryHeirlooms are an important part of a family’s story. What is saved and why? What clues do objects such as photos, scrapbooks, bibles, quilts and other keepsakes uncover about family histories? This exhibit will feature items that reveal stories about families that settled in the Ohio River Valley and will display examples of genealogy resources that can be found at the Filson Historical Society. August 31, 2018 – February 28, 2019

Made to Order: The Fashion of Geneva H. Bell - Jackets of sequins, suede, and tartan. Dresses featuring geometric prints and metallic threads. A hat in mauve. A muumuu in seafoam. Explore the wardrobe of educator and activist Geneva Howard Bell (1905-2013), on view at The Filson Historical Society’s Bingham Gallery beginning August 31. The exhibition includes custom-made textiles and hats from Bell’s collection, dating between 1970 and 1990. The exhibition also features photographs of Geneva and her husband, Dr. Jesse Bell (1904-1998), the first African American physician at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital. August 31, 2018 – December 7, 2018

The Rogers Clark Ballard Thruston Mountain Photograph Collection, 1882-1905The 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.

Guided tours of these exhibits are available daily at 2 p.m. Tours are free and open to the public. A list of our upcoming programs can be found at

Watercolor of shanty boats by Agnes Prizer Fay

Shantyboats on the River, Agnes Prizer Fay (2014.14.4)


Shantyboat Life on the Ohio - Dr. Mark Wetherington, former Director of the Filson Historical Society, made an extensive study of Louisville’s vanished floating community during his tenure as the Filson’s Senior Research Fellow. This exhibit, co-curated by Wetherington and the Filson’s Curator of Collections, Jim Holmberg, pairs this research with resources from the Filson’s collections. Denigrated as “squatty little half-house, half-boat,” shantyboats provided dwelling places for as many as 50,000 people along American rivers during the Great Depression. From the 1850s until the 1950s, Louisville had a thriving shantyboat community by the outlet of Beargrass Creek along River Road near Butchertown, at an area called “The Point.” At the Filson, visitors will learn about the "underground economy” that thrived on fishing, basket making and harvesting mussel shells for buttons.  - Bingham Gallery, January 4 – May 10, 2019


Through a Soldier's Lens: Jack Speed’s WWI Photography – Louisville native John "Jack" Speed was an officer in the 150th Field Artillery during World War I. His unit served on the Western Front where they saw action at Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Speed was not only a soldier, but also an amateur photographer – his numerous photographs the product of technological improvements that made cameras more portable and accessible to the general public than ever before. This exhibit features Speed's images of war, exploring the experiences of one Kentuckian afield during global conflict.

The Evolution of Camp Zachary Taylor – In 1917, nearly three thousand acres of farmland and open fields were transformed into an active military camp with around two thousand buildings; four short years later the land, buildings, and equipment were auctioned off, and the Camp Taylor neighborhood was born. Images and documents from the Filson’s collection illustrate the history of Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville’s World War I cantonment.

What’s Old is New at The Filson: Recent Acquisitions to the Collection – The Filson regularly receives historical material in all our collection areas: manuscript, book, photograph, print, and artifact. For the first time, a selection of recent acquisitions was the focus of an exhibit.

Called to Arms: Kentuckians in the First World War – This exhibit focuses on The Great War both abroad and at home. "Called to Arms" covers the evolution of World War I, both locally and globally, by telling stories of local mobilization, sharing perspectives from the trenches, showcasing advances in military technology of the times, and sharing stories from the home front.

Understanding the Indescribable: Paintings by G. Caliman Coxe – Abstract painter Gloucester Caliman “G.C.” Coxe (1907-1999) was a fixture of the Louisville art scene. He was the first African-American to receive a fine arts degree from the University of Louisville and a co-founder of the Louisville Art Workshop. Works by Coxe belonging to the Filson as well as those generously loaned for the exhibition by Ed Hamilton, Dr. Robert and Laura Douglas, and Warren and Julie Payne of Payne Fine Arts will exhibit aspects of Coxe’s process and practice. This exhibit is generously supported by Treyton Oak Towers and programming related to the exhibit is generously supported by Republic Bank.

Selling the War: Posters from WWI – This exhibit will take a more visual approach to the war, featuring original lithographic World War I propaganda posters commissioned by the United States Committee on Public Information's Division of Pictorial Publicity. This exhibit was on display from Apr. 7-June 15, 2017. “Selling the War: Posters from WWI” was sponsored by YMCA of Greater Louisville.

To the Polls! Presidential Campaigns and ElectionsA 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.