The first major addition to the International Museum of the Horse at Kentucky Horse Park opened Saturday with a $10 million wing devoted to the history of the Arabian horse.
The 32-year-old museum's new addition, named the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries, includes permanent and changing exhibitions.
The permanent collection includes art, artifacts and media-enhanced exhibits using computers, videos, DVDs and digital-picture frames designed to engage youngsters, project manager Evie Tubbs Sweeney said.
Exhibits tell the story of the origins of the Arabian horse and its spread through Europe and America. Tribute is paid to Arabian horses as stars of the movies in film clips from The Black Stallion; Black Stallion Returns; and Son of the Sheik, the 1926 silent film staring Rudolph Valentino; and Lawrence of Arabia.
Placing the Arabian Horse Galleries at the Kentucky Horse Park was the brainchild of Bazy Tankersly, the largest breeder of Arabian horses in the United States, who raises Arabians on her Al-Marah ranch in Tucson, Ariz.
Tankersly donated $1 million toward the new addition, the single largest private donation to the horse park since it opened in 1978.
She's being trying to find a place for the permanent Arabian horse exhibit for 10 years, said her daughter Tiffany Tankersly, who attended Saturday's opening ceremony. Bazy Tankersly, now in her 80s, was not able to attend Saturday's festivities.
Three years ago, Tankersly approached the park with the idea. When the park indicated interest, the Purebred Arabian Trust committed to raising money for the addition, said Robert Fauls Jr., president of the Arabian horse registry. Fauls and Arabian horse owner Howard Pike are co-chairmen of the Al-Marah project for the trust.
Fauls said, "There's not a better place in the world to tell the story of the Arabian horse than the Kentucky Horse Park."
In addition to the park's reputation, the International Museum of the Horse was "already here and had traffic coming through," he said. The park attracts about 1.4 million visitors annually.
Arabians might not be familiar to the average person, Fauls said, even though all Thoroughbreds trace back to one of three founding Arabians from the late 17th and early 19th centuries.
John Nicholson, executive director of Kentucky Horse Park, said the park wanted to pay special tribute to the Arabian horse because it's the foundation breed.
The park has several events annually that spotlight Arabians, including the Egyptian Pyramid Society's show at the park this weekend with almost 500 horses.
"We are very hopeful that the Arabian museum will help us attract even more Arabian events," Nicholson said.