WKU, a leading American university with international reach, will open its Instruments of American Excellence Collection at the Kentucky Museum on Sept. 21. The collection spotlights the ordinary means by which renowned Americans from all fields of study have achieved extraordinary things.
As the only exhibit of its kind in the United States, this vast collection of over 140 pieces includes many iconic and memorable items such as the underwater camera housing used by Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard, the hammer used by former President Jimmy Carter to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, one of Tony Hawk’s earliest skateboards, and lab equipment used by Nobel Prize winning scientists.
“This collection at WKU is history come alive. It is a record of ideas made real and dreams come true,” said David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and editor of the Oxford History of the United States series.
WKU President Gary Ransdell has pursued the project for the past two years with collection chairman Dan Murph and a committee of students. Murph, having no prior affiliation with the University, first approached Dr. Ransdell with the idea in October 2010. Dr. Ransdell began storing the first donations in a small closet in his office.
“At WKU, we are constantly looking for new ways to educate and inspire our students,” Dr. Ransdell said. “We know this collection will motivate students and visitors to become the next generation of American titans in the arts, academia, sports, science, research and media fields. A student interested in law can see the personal copy of the constitution that sat on Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s desk. Students studying architecture can view the actual tools used by Michael Graves or Robert Portman.”
Other notable items in the collection include equipment used by Sam Phillips to record Elvis Presley at Sun Studios in Memphis, ballet slippers belonging to Julie Kent and Sara Mearns, Patch Adams’ clown nose, Liza Minelli’s shoes worn in her Tony Award-winning performance of The Act, the sculpting tools of Chester Daniel French, and many more.
“These items remind us that the actual instruments used by the highest of achievers are not magical or highly unusual,” Murph said, “but rather that the attainment of excellence is often achieved only by the imagination and perseverance that personify the American spirit.”
The exhibit will open at 1 p.m. Sept. 21.
The Kentucky Museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, and admission price includes all exhibits, including the renowned Duncan Hines exhibit. Discounted rates are available for children, seniors, and groups. Ample parking is available for members and guests.
About the Kentucky Museum: This marks the beginning of a new era at the Kentucky Museum, which welcomes more than 50,000 visitors every year. The Kentucky Building, the grand facility that houses the Museum, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum is currently seeking accreditation by the American Association of Museums. Museum staffers are also working toward affiliation with other local and national museums, which will provide additional benefits for its members. Learn more about the Instruments of American Excellence exhibit and membership at the Kentucky Museum at http://www.instrumentsofamericanexcellence.com.
Contact: Rena Resnick,212-584-4323