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New Life

High tech exhibits await visitors
to renovated Derby Museum

Museum was destroyed by 2009 flooding

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (July 2010) – After a devastating flood last September, the Kentucky Derby Museum is once again enjoying the many visitors it sees each year. A recent multimillion dollar renovation has enabled the staff to create an even better in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at what makes the first Saturday in May so special.
The $5.5 million renovation took 51/2 months, and the museum was actually closed for nine months. “We started planning and designing three months into the project,” said Wendy Treinen, Director of Communications for the Kentucky Derby Museum, located at 704 Central Ave. in Louisville.

Kentucky Derby Museum

Photo provided

The Kentucky Derby Museum has
re-opened after flood renovation.

Treinen said all of the museum’s collection pieces survived and 37 pieces have been sent to Chicago for restoration. “We did lose a couple thousand books in our archives, but most are replaceable.”
Before the flood, plans had been in the works to overhaul the museum. It officially reopened on April 18, just in time for Derby 136.
Staff at the museum hopes to reach a more family-friendly audience. “We want to recreate the Derby in a fun way,” she said.
Exhibits on the first floor depict what people experience when they visit the Derby, such as the fashions, jockey silks and accessories, trophies and the Winner’s Circle. The second floor takes an inside look at the life of a horse. Several different tours are offered with the admission price.
If visitors arrive between 7 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., they can watch the horses and their trainer work out. A second tour takes visitors on a behind-the-scenes look at such things as the jockey’s locker room. The third tour option is entitled, Horse and Haunts, and takes place on the third Thursday of the month. While taking it, visitors can learn the legends and lore of the Downs.
Virtually all exhibits that are up now are permanent, said Treinen. One temporary exhibit up until the end of the year is of Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner. On display are the gold cup trophy and the trainer’s silver cup trophy.
An ongoing exhibit is the Capture the Moment exhibit. This exhibit reflects the winning horse of the current year. Visitors can learn about Versailles, Ky.-based WinStar Farm, and see all four of 2010 Derby winner Super Saver’s shoes and jockey Calvin Borel’s boots.

Wendy Treinen

Treinen

The Kentucky Derby Museum is “a one-of-a-kind place,” said Treinen. “It’s the only museum in the nation that celebrates what Louisville is about.”
The museum is interactive; visitors can take a ride atop a simulated “Thoroughbred,” participate in a mock race and control the outcome. Touch-screen graphics are used similar to the ones used in the old museum. Technology played a big part in the renovation.
Extensive coverage of past Derbys is available through a time machine where visitors can view Derby coverage that includes pre- and post-race interviews. Visitors can hear the recorded experiences of real people, not just celebrities, who visit the Derby. Approximately 30,000 hours of research went into creating the new museum exhibits to tell the story of an event dating to 1875.
It is no doubt that celebrities are part of the traditional Derby fashion enchantment, and fashion plays a larger part in the new museum. Displays include the dress, hat and shoes worn by the late Anna Nicole Smith to the race in 2004, and the suit Penny Chenery wore in the 1972 Winner’s Circle with her horse Riva Ridge.
Also highlighted is the fashion of Cora Jacobs, a Louisville real estate agent who liked to dress flamboyantly, as shown by her 1970s Derby outfit featuring hot pants and a floor-length duster coat emblazoned with the names of all previous Derby winners.
“Our main focus in renovating was in saving these artifacts,” said Treinen, “and to share the fun of the Kentucky Derby experience.”

• For more information on the Kentucky Derby Museum, call (502) 637-1111 or visit: www.DerbyMuseum.org.

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