History is coming to town as Richmond Parks and Recreation and the Irvinton House Museum bring the public two exhibits that highlight some of Richmond's biggest ties to history.
The first exhibit, "The Life & Legend of Daniel Boone," is hosted by Richmond's Irvinton House Museum. For Boone, the man who became famous for his exploration of the Cumberland Gap and Kentucky River, his exhibit will explore the visions past biographers and artists imposed on the man and introduces Boone’s real life as modern scholars understood it.
"These two exhibits highlight two incredible pieces of Madison County history: the early foundation and settlement of the area by European colonists who would later form the county of Madison (Boone Exhibit) and then the areas grapple with slavery, Civil War and evolution into a modern region (Clay Exhibit). It is important that people learn and know where we as a community came from and the forces and people who were instrumental in that past so that we can best move forward towards a better community," Mason Chamblee, museum and recreational programmer with Richmond Parks and Recreation, said. "You can only move to the place you want to be by knowing where you just came from."
Chamblee said the exhibits also serve as a way for families to introduce their children to the history of this area and provide a foundation on which they can build a lifelong passion for learning. He noted that these exhibits are appropriate for all ages and "… give anyone an accessible way to discover, maybe for the first time, the truly awe-inspiring past of Madison County and Richmond."
Boone, a man of many travels and explorations, is a fabled hero of the modern age. But the line of fact and fiction have become blurred over the decades as many of the people who have interpreted him have discarded the facts to create a hero that embodies their own personal visions and agendas.
"When Daniel Boone entered into what would become modern Kentucky, he did so searching for the promise of a better life. And during his time here developed warm relationships with the indigenous Native American populations, contrary to what most legends about him say, showcasing a respect and civility towards the Native population that few at the time or in the years succeeding him did," Chamblee said.
So who was the real Daniel Boone? The exhibit will give attendees an opportunity to discover the Boone's past and separate fact from fiction in his life.
The other exhibit, hosted by the Richmond Tourism Department, will feature "The Clays of Kentucky." Documents and images from the Clay Family that have rarely been seen in public will be on display as attendees learn about some of the champions of democracy, Henry Clay, Cassius Clay and Laura Clay.
"Cassius Clay, the Lion of White Hall, lived most of his adult life in Madison County and the Bluegrass region and was one of the most vocal supporters of the abolition of slavery and equality among all people," Chamblee said in an email to The Register.
"I think this is something that this area should highlight and express pride over, being at the forefront of one the biggest battles this country has ever fought."
Laura Clay, daughter of Cassius Clay, was co-founder and first president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, as well as a leader of the American women's suffrage movement.
With White Hall, the home of Cassius Clay, located in north Madison County and Ashland, and the estate of Henry Clay, just up the road in Lexington, the Clays have left a huge impact on the area of central Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Historical Society.
"They really show what we as a town and community should continue to aspire towards," Chamblee said. "I feel that if we are able to reflect back on this incredibly rich and proud history, it can help us as a community, town and county progress to the type of place we want to be in the future."
The exhibits will be open and on display Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. To learn more, visit the Irvinton House Museum's Facebook page under the events tab at facebook.com/irvintonhouse. Lasting through Sept. 19, residents can check out two concurrent historical exhibits taking place at the Irvinton House Museum and the Richmond Tourism Building. The exhibits are free and open to the public.
According to Chamblee, the Kentucky Historical Society offers several different exhibits to nonprofit and government run museums and history centers to use. Chamblee said he was able to reach out to the KHS about both the exhibits and was able to secure both.
"Luckily for us, both were available for the time frame we were wanting. This is a wonderful program run by the KHS, and I look forward to having the opportunity to continue working with them through their various other programs apart from the Museums-to-Go."
Chamblee said he is looking to present two exhibits next year, with one to mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment and Women's Suffrage movement in 2020, which he hopes will include a focus on the landmark legislation and how women in the area were involved, including Laura Clay, and how the lives of those women changed.
"Our second major long-term exhibit plan will be one that focuses on the Trachoma Hospital that was here between 1926-1950. This is one important to me because I feel, despite of the other huge historical tie ins to this property, that the hospital was such a phenomenal collaboration of so many different and varied individuals, resources and ideas that all focused their time, energy and dedication in Richmond to eradicate a public health disaster in not only the eastern counties of this state, but in Appalachia, the Ozarks and Native-American reservations across this country," Chamblee said in an email to The Register.
While they do not have a set date for the opening of the exhibit, Chamblee said it would not be before the planned centennials next year.
Another event on the horizon will include highlighting the 200th anniversary of Irvinton. The property, built in 1820, will be having a year-long celebration of all the remarkable history that has come through its doors.
Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.