About The Highlands Museum

Who We Are

History and heritage along with energy and excitement come together on the Country Music Highway at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center. From 6 months to 96 years old, visitors find activity and information that puts the past in perspective and moves the present into the future.

During your visit you’ll step into a nineteenth century classroom and become a student of the 1870’s. Enter a medical world when late night house calls were made on horseback and payment was in chickens. Immerse yourself in the culture of Eastern Kentucky music and visit the Cyrus and Judd families. Create your own music on our Karoake Korner stage or at Music Quilt, an interactive sound sculpture. Salute those who served during the wars of the twentieth century and see Hitler’s last telephone.

The Discovery Center boasts many areas of interactive exploration, including a special play place for toddlers and a flight simulation station for pilots of all ages. Walk into the Ohio River town of Poage’s Landing and navigate Little Joe, an actual towboat. Role play in the streetscape of a river community. Learn about the natural world around you in the tree house exhibit or rest awhile on the front porch and enjoy games, a puzzle garden and a puppet dog house.

Visitors will also see revolving exhibits that showcase sports, regional art, textiles and quilts.

A Brief History

“The Highlands Museum & Discovery Center provides avenues of discovery to children and visitors of all ages. Interactive exhibits, educational experiences and innovative programs, both cultural and historical, celebrate our past, explore our present and enrich our future.”

The Kentucky Highlands Museum was organized in 1984 as a historical and cultural center for the Ashland, Kentucky, area. The Museum was housed in the historical Mayo Mansion until taking up residency in downtown Ashland’s Main Street District in the first floor, basement, and mezzanine levels of the former C. H. Parsons Department Store in 1994. In 1997, the museum, following a strategic planning process, changed its name to the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center with the above mission statement.

The museum achieves its mission with three goals:

  • Education for all ages about the past, the present and the future
  • Heritage and artifact collection and interpretation
  • Cultural tourism destination for US Byway and US 23 Country Music Highway

In 2003-2004, the museum began a capital campaign to raise funds to both renovate the museum spaces of the Parsons Department Store in downtown Ashland and clarify the region’s history with interpretive exhibits. The campaign also provided for a permanent endowment to support future operating

Phase I of the renovation plans, as a result of this campaign, began in November 2005 and was completed in January, 2006. The museum’s commitment to downtown Ashland in the upgrades and renovation to the building have added to it’s reputation as a heritage institution for residents, as an attraction for tourists, and as a key anchor in Ashland’s arts district.

The Museum currently has five paid employees, including an Executive Director, an Office Manager, two Directors of Operation (Curators), and an Education and Marketing Director.

On November 15, 2013, the Museum purchased the Parsons building from its landlord.  The purchase, termed “A New Beginning,” represents a milestone in the Museum’s history because it opens opportunities for additional improvements and expansion into other floors of the building.

A copy of the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center’s bylaws can be viewed by clicking here.

Meet The Staff

Carol Rice Allen
Executive Director

Julie Conrad
Office Manager

Heather Whitman
Curator and Facilities Director

Donetta Trimble
Education Director

Amber Reeves
Marketing Director

Board of Trustees

Elaine Corbitt |   President

Carolyn Warnock | Vice President

David Griffith |  Treasurer

Sandie Bolen |  Secretary

Miles Armentrout

Dr. Carter Gussler

Greg Jackson

Brandy Preston

Mitch Hall

Advisory Board

Amanda Collins | Chairman

Darryl Akers

Sue Dowdy

Jim Powers

Steve Towler

Jim Davis

Sandie Bolen

Steve Corbitt

Gary Bussa

Donna Suttle

Ted Miller

Amanda Clark

David Daniel

Cathy Cremeans

Phil Stewart