About The Kentucky Derby Museum
The Kentucky Derby Museum, which sits on the front steps of historic Churchill Downs, is a visible part of the Louisville, Kentucky community and one of the premiere attractions in the city. Graciously welcoming over 210,000 guests through the doors each year, the Museum gives a firsthand look at the event for which Louisville is known worldwide. The Museum aims to provide a lasting impression of tradition, hospitality and pride to our many visitors.
Opening to the public in April 1985, the Kentucky Derby Museum sits on land Churchill Downs donated to the non-profit corporation. The construction of the facility and seed money for the endowment fund was provided by the J. Graham Brown Foundation and five banks in the community. Although the Museum maintains a strong relationship with Churchill Downs, it functions as an entirely separate entity with self-generating revenue for its non-profit operating budget.
The 25th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby Museum in 2010 was marked with a $5.5 million renovation which dramatically transformed the Museum’s interior from top to bottom. The Museum embraced the renovation project after a severe flash flood devastated the main floor exhibits and lower level offices in August of 2009. During the nine months of closure, the Museum created all new themes, developed research and embraced the mission to engage, educate and excite everyone about the extraordinary experience that is the Kentucky Derby.
The Museum has welcomed more than 4 million visitors from all over the world including celebrities Bo Derek, Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Muhammad Ali, Sigourney Weaver, Gene Simmons, Susan St. James, Dick Eversoll, President Mikhail Gorbachev and First Minister of Scotland. (See feature exhibit, "Stars of the Stands," which focuses on how fame and celebrity transformed the Kentucky Derby into an iconic event)
The Kentucky Derby Museum, in addition to preserving the history of the Kentucky Derby, offers so much more to the community. The education department offers a free kids program to all public and parochial schools within the states of Indiana and Kentucky. Through this program, students learn about the economics, history and significance of the Kentucky Derby. Another major contribution to the community is the Backside Learning Center. With advocacy from the Museum, the BLC was founded in June of 2004 to provide educational opportunities and other resources to backside workers.