BY KRISTINA ROSEN
After learning about the Lexington Pandemic History Project, we think the Lexington History Museum may be the city’s best little known historical treasure.
Twenty two years ago, the Lexington History Museum, Inc. was incorporated when Mayor Pam Miller called upon a group of people to start a history museum. Among that group was Foster Ockerman, Jr., a Lexington native historian who now serves as the President and Chief Historian of LexHistory (aka Lexington History Museum).
“Our mission is to tell Lexington’s story to everyone, every way,” says Ockerman.
In 2003, the Lexington History Museum opened in the former Fayette County Courthouse until the building closed in 2012 to undergo renovations.
While the museum could no longer offer full-scale exhibits, LexHistory reinvented itself by launching virtual reality exhibits, establishing a series of Pocket Museums, developing video history programs, and producing audio history broadcasts.
The unique online resources that LexHistory offers come at critical time amid the current shutdowns and quarantine.
Virtual reality museums, or “museums in the cloud” as Ockerman refers to them, are 3D navigable exhibits that the museum has done in the past. There are currently five VR exhibits online including, Costumes for the documentary “Belle Brezing & the Gilded Age of the Bluegrass” and Horse Racing in Lexington.
Recently after reaching over 4,000 likes on their Facebook page, LexHistory announced the Lexington Pandemic History Project. The museum is asking those who have liked the Lexington community and those quarantined here to send their unique Lexington Pandemic experience.
“A famous historian once said people are familiar with the notion of connecting the dots, what historians do is we find the dots and then connect them,” says Ockerman. “And so by asking people to send me their personal experiences, those are the dots we are collecting. I really hope we get 4,000.”
Ockerman is the author of five works of history. He is also a former rock and roll disk jockey and a retired professional soccer referee. If he doesn’t sound cool enough yet, he was also the consulting historian for the Emmy Award documentary Belle Brezing.
Since 2012, the museum has been on the hunt for a new building; however, within the last two months and after looking at dozens of potential buildings, they’ve decided that a multi thousand square foot exhibit hall may not be the best way to go. Instead, the Lexington History Museum will launch two exhibits a year, one in the summer and another in the winter.
To meet the challenge of offering full-scale museum exhibits without a physical building, LexHistory established a series of pocket museums.
Pocket museums are full-scale museum exhibits downsized into display cases throughout building lobbies in Lexington. Fifth Third Bank has an exhibit based on Lexington hotels in the gilded age while the government center has exhibits on IBM electric typewriters and another on Lexington and Kentucky themed campaign buttons.
In March, High Impact Productions launched Chronicles, the new Kentucky history show on KET3. Doug High, the award winning director of Belle Brezing, is the director and Ockerman is the host of the television series.
The design of the show is 60 minutes of five or six stories that cover familiar subjects differently. Topics in the first episode included Lexington during the civil war, but with less focus on the soldiers and more emphasis on the impact of the financial system; and covering the city of Lexington through Mary Todd Lincoln’s eyes during the 1830’s. Pre-production for Volume 2 has been halted for now.
Once quarantine is over, LexHistory will partner with RadioEye to record, produce, and broadcast a seven hour audio history of Lexington based on Ockerman’s book, Historic Lexington. The radio broadcast will allow the museum to cater to the visually impaired for the first time.
Soon the museum will be able to tell Lexington’s story to everyone in every way whether that’s virtually, audibly, or visually.
To support the Lexington History Museum, the public can donate online or via mail. Stay up to date by liking their Facebook page or dropping your email on their website for occasional newsletters.
Want to be part of Lexington’s Pandemic history? Send your unique Lexington Pandemic experience to [email protected], and be sure to like their Facebook page to stay up to date on the project.
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