LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
For the last few years, the future of the Mountain Life Museum has been questionable at best. Rumors of the permanent closing of the museum, which is located in Levi Jackson State Park, have circulated throughout the area for more than a year. Park officials, historians and other community leaders met Thursday at the Levi Jackson State Park clubhouse to discuss plans to rekindle interest in the museum.
Sam Devine, regional director of the Kentucky Department of Parks, explained the museum has been closed because people aren’t coming through to visit it anymore. He feels exhibits inside the museum cannot be static, but need to be ever-changing, if they want people to visit.
“Unfortunately, parks don’t have the money to do this on our own. The museum has lost money since it’s been down there,” Devine said. “With our precarious financial situation, it was decided several years ago that it’s one thing we could cut.”
Devine said he believes the museum is located in an amazing area that could potentially be a place to host events like art shows, music festivals and various heritage related events — all of which could potentially bring in new visitors.
He stressed, because of the state budget, the museum will need public support to stay open. He then opened the floor to discussion, asking for ideas on how to increase traffic to the area.
Several ideas were presented, including an artisan’s fair. Jim Harrison, a woodturning artist and member of several artisans’ guilds, suggested the museum allow juried artists to sell their artwork there, stating that he could get 30 or more artists at the museum on weekends to sell their art.
Juanita Westerfield had several ideas for the use of museum area, including setting up re-enactors for things like heritage weekend, pioneer cooking, or other encampment type activities. Westerfield also suggested having movie nights at or near the museum area and mentioned that it would be a very beautiful place for weddings.