exhibit comes to
Oldham Co. History Center
exhibit explores historys
relationship with fences
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (April 2009) One of the worlds
best known museums, The Smithsonian Institution, is coming to Oldham
County in the form of a traveling exhibit. Between Fences
explores the relationships between communities and fences, and will
provide many opportunities in which the community can participate.
The Smithsonian always brings prestige and a great
reputation, attracting a wide range of audiences, said Nancy Theiss,
executive director of the Oldham County History Center in La Grange.
Between Fences is a Museum on Main Street exhibit created
by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
The Museum on Main Street program is a partnership between the Smithsonian
Institution, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and state
humanities councils nationwide that serve small-town museums and communities.
This program gives smaller communities a chance to benefit from the
expertise and exhibit experience of the Smithsonian Institution, said
There are lots of Kentuckians that have never been to Washington,
D.C., to see any of the Smithsonian Museums. Bringing the Smithsonian
exhibit to Kentucky allows our Kentuckians an opportunity to see a first-class
exhibit in their own home town, said Kathleen Pool, Associate
Director for the Kentucky Humanities Council Inc.
Pool added that the Kentucky Humanities Council and the Oldham County
History Center are allowing the residents of Oldham County access
to the cultural resources of our nations premiere museum. It also
allows the local museum to use the Smithsonian name to get people excited
about coming back to visit their own local museum.
Between Fences will be on display from April 25 through
June 6 in the Rob Morris Chapel, located on the Oldham County History
Center grounds. The exhibit opening will kick off with an Ice Cream
Social at noon on April 25. The exhibit consists of tools, photographs,
journals, postcards and illustrations relating to the history of fences.
Visitors may be surprised at the exploration of the multiple meanings
behind this everyday icon, said Pool. This exhibit is more than
just about fences. It is also about land division and what fences represent.
Are we fencing things in or are we fencing them out?
fences have played a
prominent role in the development
of communities across the globe.
A fence conveys information about the people who built
it, how they view and use their property, and the nature of their relations
with their neighbors, she said. Such barriers speak eloquently
about how we view our communities and country as well. Between
Fences explores the implications of fences in Colonial America,
around gated communities, and at our countrys borders with Canada
The History Center had a large turnout when it hosted a previous Smithsonian
Institution exhibition, Key Ingredients: America by Food,
said Theiss. To accompany this exhibit, Theiss and the community produced
a cookbook with recipes and stories that focused on the local food traditions
and families of Oldham County.
Between Fences will focus on the way fences create barriers
and divide landscapes, she said.
The exhibit is broken down into sections, such as This Land is My Land,
Home, Farm & Fence, Production, Dont Fence Me In, Good Fences
Make Good Neighbors and Building Borders.
It speaks well (of Oldham County) that the Smithsonian would pick
a couple of county museums to use as the backdrop for presenting this
exhibit, said Bob Martin, chair of the Board of Directors for
the Oldham County Historical Society.
Community projects are being planned to stimulate interest in the exhibit
for the short time it will be on display at the History Center. More
than 250 individual pickets have been given out for the Paint A Picket
project, said Martin. These pickets are to be painted individually by
all ages to celebrate What History Means to Me as the theme.
Its a really unique project, said Martin.
These pickets will be on display at the History Center grounds during
the Golden Anniversary Gala on Sept. 25. The Oldham County Historical
Society celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the Paint A Picket
project is really a great community effort to have people voice
to us what history means to them and why it is important. We cant
wait to see the results, said Theiss.
Even though Between Fences might not appeal to everybody
in the community, said Martin, it is an honor for it to be displayed
in Oldham County. A lot of dedicated volunteers are needed to help install
the exhibit, act as docents, and dismantle and package the exhibit so
that it can arrive safely at its next destination.
The Oldham County History Center is the fifth city this exhibit will
travel to in Kentucky, with each town typically hosting the exhibit
for six weeks, said Pool. After leaving La Grange in June, it will go
to the Boyle County Public Library in Danville for its sixth and final
stop in Kentucky.
photo, part of
the traveling exhibit,
shows how fences
have contributed to
Host venues, such as libraries, state parks or local museums,
find that a Smithsonian Institution exhibition increases community involvement
because it brings the excitement that comes along with hosting
a Smithsonian exhibit, said Pool.
Each host community is required to assemble a local exhibit to tie into
the traveling exhibit, and the Kentucky Humanities Council offers a
mini-grant to host local humanities programs that supplement the exhibit.
This requires some planning and partnerships locally that would
not have taken place otherwise, she said.
The topics that are offered with these traveling museums gives
smaller museums the chance to showcase a particular aspect of each particular
exhibit, said Theiss. Many opportunities present themselves for
explaining why fences are an integral part of the history of the different
Oldham County communities.
Fences were often associated with European culture, German and English
cultures being the primary landowners when Oldham County was initially
established in the early 1800s, said Theiss. Oldham County has its share
of board fences found around horse farms along U.S. 42, unique stone
fences such as the ones surrounding Floydsburg Cemetery and the Kentucky
State Reformatory, and even chain link fences that denote security and
protection around some of the larger businesses in the county today.
Oldham County has a fencing heritage of which it can be proud.
Between Fences is the fourth Museum on Main Street Exhibit
the Kentucky Humanities Council has brought to Kentucky. Previous exhibits
include Key Ingredients: America by Food (two tours), and
New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music.
The Kentucky Humanities Council has booked a new exhibit, Journey
Stories, to tour Kentucky in 2011. Applications to host this exhibit
will be taken later in the year.
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