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Kentucky Derby Museum hat exhibit

Behind the scenes: Kentucky Derby Museum

Story by
postedAugust 13, 2019
We're pulling the curtain back to reveal all the hard work—and the number of talented staff—it takes to make exhibits come to life. Here, goes behind the scenes at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

With two floors of exhibitions, the Kentucky Derby Museum underwent an 11,000-square-foot renovation project last fall, the largest expansion since its 1985 opening. The attraction is designed to celebrate the history and tradition of the two most anticipated minutes in sports: the world-renowned Kentucky Derby.

The museum’s featured exhibit, “The Greatest Race,” is a 4K high-resolution experience capturing the unique sporting and cultural event of the Derby on a 360-degree screen in the Great Hall.

Permanent exhibits in the new wing focus on the personal collections of innovative Thoroughbred trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Bill Shoemaker, who won the Derby four times over four decades.

Kentucky Derby Museum exhibit

Chris Goodlett, director of curatorial and educational affairs, says visitors experience exhibits in their own, unique way—whether it’s through permanent installations telling stories crucial to the understanding of the Derby or temporary exhibits often featuring something of immediate importance or artifacts on loan.

“Some people really want to see historic and unique objects, art or images, while others engage through interactives. For the curatorial team, a relevant and engaging story is one of the key elements in an exhibition. It provides the meaning for the artifacts and images,” he says.

And while there are many more interactive components in the museum’s exhibits now than there were several years ago, Goodlett says interactive doesn’t always mean technology.

Riders at Kentucky Derby Museum

“For example, we recently showcased a temporary exhibition on 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah that included a puzzle that guests could complete. The pieces together showed an x-ray of American Pharoah’s hoof,” he says. “A second, but possibly less obvious, change is the amount of text in an exhibit. We try to strike a balance between informing and potentially having too much text. Recently, the curatorial team removed some text from exhibit panels and elected to use it on social media and blog posts. That way, we not only cut back on the amount of copy, but there was additional information we could use for promoting the exhibit after the opening.”

For more information on the Kentucky Derby Museum, contact Group Tour Manager Jennifer Riddell or go to

Photos by Kentucky Derby Museum

For more behind the scenes looks check out 7 museums you need to visit now.


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