Instruments of American Excellence exhibit opens

Jacob Parker

WKU’s Kentucky Museum celebrated the opening of their Instruments of American excellence exhibit Friday, which showcases a wide variety of artifacts that have shaped America’s history.

The exhibit houses seemingly ordinary items that have been used by prominent figures in American history. One of Tony Hawk’s earliest skateboards, Jimmy Carter’s hammer that he used to build Habitat for Humanity homes, and Sam Phillip’s 77RX RCA microphone that was used by the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley are a few of the 150 items featured.

Chairman of the Board of Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Gaines Penn began the ceremony by introducing president Gary Ransdell.

“Sometimes greatness can be achieved with the simplest of tools if you’ve got the mind, and the heart, and the spirit to put those tools to work. That’s what we’re about today with the opening of this exhibit,” Ransdell opened.

Ransdell described the new addition as unique, and looks forward to the future of the exhibit. He mentioned goals of trading artifacts with the Smithsonian and having a traveling museum of a about fifteen artifacts to go to public schools and other universities to make WKU a nationwide brand.

The exhibit is the brainchild of Bowling Green resident Dan Murph. Murph said that it was designed to be a living, breathing, and ongoing record of America’s greatest achievements.

“We want to collect things that define American democracy and that define the achievements of this nation and the people who have made those dreams come true,” Murph said.

Bill “Whitey” Sanders, a WKU graduate and world renowned political cartoonist, Curt Jones, inventor of Dippin Dots, and guest speaker Sarah Marks, described by the New York Times as the greatest ballerina of all time, were among contributors to the exhibit that attended the grand opening.

Patch Adams, the famous physician and activist whose life was portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie “Patch Adams”, was a major contributor to the exhibit. Adams asked for Ransdell to share his thoughts, as he couldn’t be present for the occasion:

“We come into the world naked, and our parents dress us. But we choose which instruments we will pick up to implement our passions,” Ransdell said on Adams’ behalf.

“We didn’t choose them to make us great, but as servants to give us meaning and substance to our passions, and my instruments gave to me life, and peace, and a pursuit of justice for all,” he said.

The IAE is a permanent exhibit and is currently featured alongside the Civil War  exhibit, the Duncan Hines exhibit, and the Exhibit of Decorative Arts and Furniture.

It can be found on the third floor of the Kentucky Museum.