Browse Exhibits (17 total)

All Dolled Up: The Handmade Paper Dolls of Carrie Douglas Dudley Ewen

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This unique collection of hand-drawn and painted paper dolls was created by Kentucky artist Carrie Douglas Dudley Ewen.

Life and Career

Ewen was born in Flemingsburg, Kentucky on March 31, 1894 to Charles Lee Dudley and Lula Kenner Dudley. Her artistic abilities surfaced at a young age, as she spent much of her time drawing and crafting paper dolls. She was encouraged in these pursuits by her mother who was an avid painter, and whose works are also part of the Filson’s museum collection. Ewen left Kentucky to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, and lived in New York, Chicago, Italy, and California before returning to Kentucky in 1963. Ewen was a pioneer for women artists in the commercial world, and worked under the name “Doug Ewen” for much of her career. Niece Lu Ann Weinstein reflects on Ewen, saying, “Aunt Doug [was] making money long before women were supposed to be so uppity.”

Ewen is known for her commercial work illustrating children’s books and cookbooks, as well as her work designing holiday cards for Henri Fayette, NuArt, and Chrysons card companies. However, her artistic flourish was not relegated to her business. In her spare time, she created a number of oil paintings of family members and friends, and experimented in a variety of media.

Work in Paper Dolls

Though Ewen was a well known professional artist, it is believed that she had no intention of profiting from these beautiful dolls. Instead she gave them as birthday and holiday gifts to the children in her family, who cherished them throughout their lives.

After reading a publication on her aunt, Lu Ann Weinstein wrote to the Filson, asking “Did you see the marvelous paper dolls that Doug created? They are as playful and cute as my aunt was. If you run across the one in color with an entire wardrobe, that is me! She sent it to me when I was ill to cheer me up and to let me know she was thinking of me.”

These dolls and their many detailed accessories indeed display the skill and spirit of the artist. Each doll in the collection is named with a note on its back.

Breaking the Mold: Sculptor Enid Yandell

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October 2019 marks the 150th birthday of Louisville-born and nationally-renowned sculptor Enid Yandell (1869-1934), known for the figure of Pan on Hogan’s Fountain and the Daniel Boone statue, both in Cherokee Park. In this celebratory exhibit, the Filson examines how Enid broke the mold that society and the art establishment imposed on women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by pursuing a career as a sculptor. The materials in this exhibit come from the Filson Historical Society's Special Collections and represent a sampling of Enid's life as a sculptor and activist.

Butchertown: A Notable Louisville Neighborhood

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Originally Louisville's meatpacking district, butcher shops dominated the area in the 1800s. Today, the neighborhood is home to a number of restaurants, bars, a distillery, and more, along with unique shotgun style houses. 

The Notable Neighborhoods Series from the Filson Historical Society is designed to connect people with history in a meaningful way and to highlight resources available at the Filson.  This small gallery features maps, photographs, and other historic material from the Filson's special collections.

Continuity of Care: Transforming Jewish Hospital for Modern Louisville, 1945-1980

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Jewish Hospital opened in 1905 as a charitable institution with a joint mission of patient care and education. Funded entirely by Louisville’s Jewish community, it provided culturally sensitive treatment to new Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, as well as training and practice opportunities for aspiring Jewish doctors facing professional restrictions. Forty years later at the end of World War II, Jewish Hospital made a major leap: leaving its original Kentucky and Floyd Street location for a state-of-the-art new facility in the heart of Louisville.  

OUR GOAL IS A NEW JEWISH HOSPITAL,” wrote Jewish Hospital Board President Milton Trost in 1945.  “It is our only expression of providing the city of Louisville with an institution dedicated to service for all religions and citizens. The expanded and thoroughly modernized Jewish Hospital opened on Chestnut Street and Brooks in the winter of 1955. By 1980 it had become a nationally renowned multi-specialty medical center. These decades were full of challenges and growth as the hospital worked to uphold its original mission amid major social, economic, and medical changes.

Evolving Inspiration: The Art and Design of Julius Friedman

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Innovator. Experimenter. Prolific. Lively. Artist and graphic designer Julius Friedman (1943-2017) was Louisville’s beloved and renowned image maker and cultural advocate. Throughout his fifty-year career, Friedman embraced a vast range of media and methods to delight viewers with his visual artistry. As a designer he crafted iconic advertisements for clients in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors and produced dozens of book publications. As an artist, he experimented extensively, constantly pushing the photographic medium and exploring book arts, sculpture, dance, and video. An enthusiastic collaborator and dedicated member of Louisville’s arts community, Julius Friedman is widely and deeply missed.

In 2018, the artist’s sister and longtime manager, Carol Abrams, generously donated works from his estate to the Filson’s collection. From September 26th, 2019 through February 28th, 2020, the Filson mounted an original exhibit based on this collection in the Nash Gallery called Evolving Inspiration: The Art and Design of Julius Friedman. We present here highlights from the exhibition and a digital tour through the phases of Julius Friedman’s rich and multi-faceted career.

Geneva H. Bell Textile Collection

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The textiles of Geneva Howard Bell (1905-2013) became a part of The Filson’s museum collection in mid-2015. Geneva was the wife of Dr. Jesse B. Bell, a nationally-recognized physician and prominent figure in Kentucky’s African American community. Dr. Bell was the first African American physician to practice at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. Both Geneva and Dr. Bell worked tirelessly to improve health and education for Kentucky children. Geneva was an active member of Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church and a teacher in the Louisville Public School System.

The collection consists of twenty-eight pieces varying from shift dresses to hats, accessories and outerwear. The items represent fashions from the 1960s-80s and are a wonderful compliment to the Jesse B. Bell Photograph Collection (006PC5); Jesse Bennett Bell (1904-1998) Papers, 1924-1998 (Mss. A B433 1-21); and the Dr. Bell portrait (1999.13.1). The textiles were processed in May 2015 by Filson volunteer and museum professional Jennifer Spence.

The following gallery highlights only a portion of the collection; researchers may visit The Filson and view the remaining items digitally through PastPerfect, The Filson’s museum software database.

Louisville, City in Transition

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Ivey W. Cousins captured streetscapes and buildings in downtown Louisville from Broadway north to the Ohio River and the residential district of Third and Fourth Streets in Old Louisville in 1959. During an era of transition with urban renewal in full swing, construction of expressways, and the expansion of the downtown medical complex—Cousins documented many of the buildings and streetscapes lost to history.

Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance, Co.

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Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance, Co. (1915-1992) was one of the largest Black-owned and operated companies in Kentucky's history. Four individuals founded Mammoth Life during the "Golden Age of Black Business" in Louisville, Kentucky: B.O. Wilkerson, Rochelle I. Smith, William H. Wright, and Henry E. Hall. By 1928, Mammoth Life opened district offices in seven neighboring states: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. The corporation was central to the Black community for decades, especially during the height of racial segregation. In 1992, Atlanta Life Insurance brought out Mammoth Life, another Black-owned business headquartered in Georgia. By 1994, Atlanta Life closed down the flagship Louisville district office. This digital exhibit pairs together black and white photographs, newspaper clippings, and pastel portraits of former presidents to explore the history of Mammoth Life and Accident Insurance, Co.

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Progressive Women of Old Louisville Online Tour

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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, Filson Historical Society, and the Woman's Club of Louisville came together to create a walking tour to share the history of some of the progressive women who lived, worked, and entertained in the Old Louisville neighborhood. We are sharing a version of this walking tour online in the hopes that you can walk this tour on your own, or learn more about these women from a distance.

To learn more about our organizations, please visit:

Conrad-Caldwell House Museum: https://conrad-caldwell.org/ 

The Woman's Club of Louisville: https://www.wclouisville.org/

The Filson Historical Society: https://filsonhistorical.org/

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Shantyboat: Life on the Ohio

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“A shantyboat is a scow with a small house on it. Nearly always a homemade job, it is put together with odd scraps of material and pieces of driftwood and wreckage. Yet it is more than a floating homestead: it is an ark which the river bears toward a warmer climate, better fishing grounds, and more plentiful and easier work on shore. At one place after another the hopeful boatman lays over for a spell, until disillusioned, he lets his craft be caught up by the river’s current, to be carried like the driftwood, farther downstream. At last he beaches out for good, somewhere in the south, where his children pass for natives.” 

Harlan Hubbard defined a shantyboat and a shantyboater’s life in this quote from his landmark book on his own river experience, Shantyboat: A River Way of Life. Shantyboaters’ experiences varied from those who floated downriver as Hubbard describes, to those who lived in beached boats with gardens and livestock, squatting on privately or publicly owned lands. Floating and permanent shantyboaters faced dangers on the water and from floods. While some made their livelihood on the river through fishing and transportation, others worked on land in saw mills, coal yards, in other local factories and as domestics in private homes and hotels. Through their living quarters and work, shantyboaters made up one part of Louisville’s community on the river, which also included those there for recreation, transportation, and entertainment. Shantyboats coexisted with showboats, steamboats, and barges, sailboats, rowboats, and towboats, both in Louisville and in other cities up and down the Ohio River.

This digital exhibit pairs the research of Dr. Mark Wetherington, former Director of the Filson Historical Society, with resources from the Filson’s collections. Denigrated as “squatty little half-house, half-boat,” shantyboats provided dwelling places for as many as 50,000 people along American rivers during the Great Depression. From the 1850s until the 1950s, Louisville had a thriving shantyboat community by the outlet of Beargrass Creek along River Road near Butchertown, at an area called “The Point.” In this exhibit, you'll learn about the people and customs of the river and the "underground economy” that thrived on fishing, basket making and harvesting mussel shells for buttons. "Shantyboat Life on the Ohio" is a glimpse into an Ohio River way of life.