I think it may have been my third or fourth day here that I was contacted by the program chair for the Kentucky Council on Archives about making a presentation on our Horse in Kentucky collections. I accepted, thinking that this would allow me to delve into our collections looking for those wow items that would excite a bunch of archivists. That was in March. Two months later, I realized on Monday that the presentation was happening on Friday and I had yet to really do more than sketch out a brief outline. Time to get to work!
I had already met with several of my colleagues to discuss what we had already accomplished. The initial Horse Industry Project had grand plans to create exhibits, programming and collecting opportunities focusing on the historic relationship of the horse and Kentucky. However, the ongoing budget crisis had whittled the project outcomes down to some programming and a digitization project to be unveiled around the time of the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
My task was to try to formulate the somewhat nebulous topic “Horse Industry in Kentucky” into a workable digitization project. So I started thinking about what subjects and topics would be included in such a theme. What would researchers want? What collections do we have to meet those wants? What should we be collecting to meet the future needs of researchers and what should we avoid because someone else is already collecting that type of material or that topic?
After much discussion we settled on eight broad categories: Breeds, Horse at Work, Tools of the Trade, Portraits and People, the Horse in Sport, the Horse at War, the Horse at Play and the Horse in Art. These may seem like really broad topics, and they are. The goal of developing a framework for a digitization project is to both to organize information and to highlight collections strengths and weaknesses. To give an example, to fill out the Breeds category we would look for collections items that document breeds specific to Kentucky and the breeding industry, emphasizing the role these breeds play in the lives of Kentuckians, the economy, etc. We would focus on but not limit our selection to Thoroughbred, Saddlebred, Trotter, and Rocky Mountain Horse.
The Horse at Work category explores the employment of the horse as transportation, transportation aid and energy source. We would look for collections items that show the impact of the horse on farming and the disappearance of the horse from farms. We could also include related industries such as wagon making, sulkies and other horse drawn vehicles.
The Portraits and People category documents the famous, the infamous and the unknown “soldiers” in the horse world, both human and equine. Using paintings, photographs and oral histories, we will document the personalities involved in all aspects of the horse industry in Kentucky.
Now that we have a framework, we can start selecting the collections to fill each category. Not that we will ever be done. The goal is to create something that we can add to for decades to come. Stay tuned to this blog and to our Digital Collection Catalog as we redesign and develop this research tool.
Images: Above right KHS Collection "Young Bill" Saddlebred Army remount stallion, Lexington, Ky., ca. 1920. 1987PH10.62
Above left KHS Collection Clem Yeager, Louisville policeman, on his horse. 1990ph2.9JEFL9
Bottom right KHS Collection Teresa Tate Newman with Patsy (horse) and buggy. 1990PH02