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Explore online for entertainment and education across the state

Photo: Calvin Cruce/National Corvette Museum
Photo: Calvin Cruce/National Corvette Museum
Photo: Visit Lex
Photo: Visit Lex
Photo: Great American Dollhouse Museum
Photo: Great American Dollhouse Museum

Kentucky is always ready for its close-up, from its curvy country roads and horse farms to its waterfalls, parks, restaurants and boutiques. It’s just that the close-ups have to be viewed through a protective lens in these days of social distancing and pandemic closures. But you can still find all this beauty, diversity and excitement splashed in video, pictures and stories online. With these brochures come-to-life,  you can dream now and travel later.

A dame and some dolls

At Destination.Tours’ downtown Georgetown webpage, get a glimpse of one of the great architectural masterpieces of America on a virtual tour of the circa 1857 Greek Revival mansion known as Ward Hall. It once brought rubberneckers from around the world to Georgetown to gawk at what $50,000 in gold could buy. 

Look above the fireplace where a portrait of young Sallie Ward hangs. Known as the Belle of Louisville in her day, this saucy scandal-maker once dropped trou in front of her mother-in-law, knocking the stiff right out of her upper lip. Still, Ward Hall Preservation Foundation Board Chair Ron Bryant notes with admiration that Sallie’s “charms seemed irresistible.”

This virtual tour entices online travelers to come to Ward Hall in person and hear the stories of the woman whose company was coveted by both Queen Victoria of Great Britain and the Empress Eugenie of France.

What were the day-to-day lives like of people living hundreds of years ago? What were their struggles and victories, pastimes and passions? Through videos on The Great American Dollhouse Museum website, visitors uncover the social history of the United States through hundreds of miniature vignettes.

Laid out in a rambling 6,000-square-foot building, this Danville museum showcases more than 200 richly detailed dollhouses and room boxes, from ones designed as children’s toys to those crafted by professional artists.

Tour by video now, then later go in person to see the whimsy of a Fantasy Forest, a gritty portrayal of a Kentucky coal town and the everyday moments of ordinary people—tending children, feeding chickens—even unleashing mischief like favorite dollhouse denizen Gregory. 

Wheels and hooves

Having a variety of entertaining and educational online content has always been a priority for the National Corvette Museum, which acted quickly to provide even more content—for free—once more people were at home.

In April, the Bowling Green museum launched an online car show inviting participants to upload images and write-ups of their car. Celebrity judges, including Corvette Hall of Fame inductees, deliberated. Trophies and plaques were awarded and all entries sent a dash plaque.

“We had almost 1,200 entries,” says Katie Ellison, director of marketing and communications.

Even before the car show, the museum debuted Vettecademy, a series of short Corvette and automotive educational videos geared toward kids and hosted by museum educator Deb Howard. For its adult audience, Fully Vetted brought more in-depth stories behind the Corvette. So many have tuned in online, according to Ellison, that the museum plans to continue these series even beyond “stay-at-home” times.

Go behind the scenes and into the stables on dozens of free virtual tours with Lexington-based Visit Horse Country, an organization of horse farms, equine medical clinics and equine attractions bringing the stories of Kentucky horse country to life.

“By leveraging the technology in our pockets and the story we have to tell, our members have been able to keep the mission of fan development moving forward while maintaining safe and appropriate boundaries,” says Marketing and Member Services Director Stephanie Arnold.

Meet some of Stonestreet Farms’ horses, including Fifty Shades of Hay, as they return to the barn for lunch. Slip into Claiborne Farm’s nursery to see a foal nuzzling its mama. Visit with Ashado and her filly at Godolphin’s Gainesborough Farm in the video series Foal Patrol.

Shakers, a curator and
a tastemaker

Join Preserve Manager Ben Leffew as he traverses the 2,000-acre Preserve at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill to show off its splendors, including its diversity of wildlife, and discuss ongoing efforts to establish habitat to support grassland species like bobwhite quail.

This Harrodsburg treasure, steward of the largest National Historic Landmark in Kentucky and the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings, has a YouTube channel filled with videos. Watch a fun time-lapse of workers scurrying about scaffolding as they install siding on the 1820 Meeting House. Catch a community sing, featuring Shaker spirituals, in the same structure after preservation work was completed. 

The video subjects range from the history of beekeeping at Shaker Village to an attic tour, giving a peek into the life of 19th century America’s largest and best-known communal society, known for valuing simplicity.

Until visitors can return, the Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington’s Devou Park is bringing its artifacts, information and resources to them through curator chats and other video and virtual tours.

Join Curator of Collections Jason French as he opens the doors to From Rituals to Runways: The Art of the Bead, exhibit with haute couture gowns, headpieces and handbags showing off breathtaking, brilliant and intricate beading work. Weaving the narrative behind the exquisite pieces is Robert Haven, an expert in tambour beading—a European technique that uses a small hook to attach beads to cloth—who designed and constructed the pieces.

Encounter a giant ground sloth, a woolly mammoth and other Ice Age animals that lumbered through northern Kentucky thousands of years ago in a Chippie Education video geared to families for at-home learning.

Think Duncan Hines is just a cake mix brand? A video tour of an exhibit at Bowling Green’s Kentucky Museum, Recommended by Duncan Hines, introduces viewers to Hines, a traveling salesman whose legendary love of food and food safety inspired him to write a book. Adventures in Good Eating evolved from a list of 100 restaurants across the country that carried the gourmand’s stamp of approval. Interestingly, Hines neither baked nor cooked.

Additional video tours, all given by student docents, cover these exhibits: A Star in Each Flag: Conflict in Kentucky, Felts Log House and Snell-Franklin Decorative Arts. Rounding out the museum’s virtual resources are photo galleries and children’s activities.

All are found on the Kentucky Museum Virtual Connection webpage, created as a response to Gov. Andy Beshear’s #healthyathome directive for COVID-19. Education Curator Christy Spurlock notes the staff plans to continue to add to this museum portal.

Put up your feet and virtually tour these Kentucky destinations!

Get ready to binge-watch the Bluegrass!

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