High school sports teams are a staple of the culture in towns across Kentucky, creating indelible moments that bond communities.
In Laurel County, it’s the 53-51 win over North Hardin to claim the 1982 boys’ Sweet Sixteen title and three straight state titles for the girls’ basketball team in 1977, 1978 and 1979 that still sit fresh in the minds of locals.
Photos from those victories are part of the Hometown Teams interactive exhibit that is making stops in 15 Kentucky towns this year and next. At each location, local photos and memorabilia are added to the exhibit, which is a production of the Kentucky Humanities Council and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program.
At the Laurel County Public Library, where the exhibit is on display through Saturday, several hundred visitors have viewed the mini museum in recent weeks. Among those visiting was Denis House, sports editor for the Sentinel-Echo, who helped gather historical photos for the display from the newspaper’s archives.
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“I thought the library did an excellent job in presenting the exhibit,” House said. “They were able to get some older photos that we didn’t have so that helped add to the exhibit.”
Other items on loan from the community include trophies and medals, yearbooks and photographs, fan gear, uniforms, helmets, cleats and various other sporting equipment. Also on display are books, movies, video games and playbills that demonstrate the impact sports have had on American culture.
Assistant library director Mary Baker said the library has hosted other exhibits and galleries in the past, but Hometown Teams has brought in the largest audience due to the exhibit’s interactivity and variety.
“Not only does the exhibit explore the history of sports, it also encourages visitors to think about sports in new ways — going beyond basketball, baseball, or football and exploring other more nontraditional sports,” Baker said. “The exhibit is very interactive, so visitors get to have a very hands-on experience.”
Not only does the exhibit explore the history of sports, it also encourages visitors to think about sports in new ways.
Mary Baker, assistant director for Laurel County Public Library
For example, visitors can use a stereoscope viewer to view 10 great sports venues and there are audio players throughout the display.
Since 1994, the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program has worked with state humanities councils to create small-format traveling exhibitions specifically for rural communities. The exhibits are designed with particular states in mind, gearing the subject matter toward a local community’s particular interest.
The exhibits usually travel for a one-year time period, but Hometown Teams will be making its way around the Bluegrass State for nearly two years. It began in Wayland in March and will wind up in Georgetown in December 2018.
The goal for the exhibit is to show visitors how all sports, whether it be basketball, football, hockey or wake boarding, contribute to America’s culture, ideals and values.
“Whether you’re an athlete or a fan, sports can teach us some pretty significant life lessons — teamwork, fair play, maturity and discipline,” said Robbie Davis, a project director for Museum on Main Street. “You see sports in the words we use, our artwork, what we read and the things we buy. We rise and fall with our favorite teams and sports are often an important measure of our investment in our hometowns.”
Paidin Dermody: 859-231-3335
Where to find Hometown Teams
7/15-8/19: Nicholas County Historical Society, Carlisle
8/26-9/30: Appalachian Arts Alliance, Hazard
10/7-11/11: Todd Welcome Center, Elkton
11/18-12/30: Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission, Corbin
1/13/18-2/24/18: The Lincoln Museum, Hodgenville
3/3/18-4/7/18: Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, Ashland
5/26/18-7/7/18: Lincoln County Public Library, Stanford
7/14/18-8/18/18: American Cave Museum, Horse Cave
8/25/18-9/29/18: Muhlenburg County Public Library, Greenville
10/6/18-11/10/18: Wrather West Kentucky Museum, Murray
11/17/18-12/29/18: Georgetown and Scott County Museum