SportsRace to the Derby


Exclusive: Inside the 'vault' at the Kentucky Derby Museum

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Posted at 12:45 PM, May 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 14:10:39-04

CHURCHILL DOWNS, Ky. (LEX18) — Deep in the basement of the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, so much history is preserved.

It's called "The Vault" and it is off limits to the public. It's not quite like a bank vault that you might think of, but it's climate-controlled because so many of the artifacts that date back hundreds of years.

"The Vault" contains pieces of history that perhaps your parents and grandparents might remember, and even some that none of us were around for.

"This is for one of the early Stakes races that was founded the same year as the Derby in 1875," said Jessica Whitehead, Curator of Collections at the Kentucky Derby Museum. "This race was the Gentleman's Cup."

Whitehead's days consist of taking care of this expensive and historic collection. Some are old, and others are a little more recent, including an outfit worn by Cyndi Lauper in the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

"We're just trying to preserve physical history," said Whitehead, which she says spans almost a century and a half. "I'm the caretaker of our permanent collection here at the museum, and any loaned artifacts or archival material that comes in."

From exhibit to exhibit, this is a small portion of what's in the museum. A lot of it is off limits.

"We have about 20,000 objects in our collection," she says. "Only about 5% of that is on display at any given time."

So just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. It's somewhere tucked away in a safe place for years, and for years to come.