Museum Exhibits

Explore Our Permanent & Rotating Features


Permanent Displays

The Highlands Museums has several permanent exhibits — toggle any below for more information:

What do you see when you’re up in a tree? Learn about the natural world around us. Bugs and beetles, butterflies and snakes, animals and birds, plants and flowers all take their place in the Discovery Center exhibit.

Welcome to their little world. We’re about to help it take off.

Imagine being a child in a little town where everything is just your size. Imagine learning about money at a tiny little bank — or about what keeps a heart healthy at an itty-bitty hospital.

Area to explore include:

  • Blue Ribbon Bus
  • City Market
  • Veterinarian Office
  • Toddler’s Paradise Play Area
  • Little Joe’s Island and Water Table
  • Tree House Adventure
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Firetruck Climb Aboard!
  • Cave Country Crawl
  • Discovery Science Hall
  • The Discovery Stage

Learning comes natural in the right environment. The all-new Discovery Center, with your help, can make this learning environment a very real reality.

Step into a world when late night house calls were made on horseback and payment was in chickens and produce. Note the products of local drugstores, along with equipment used by doctors decades ago.

Rotating exhibit.

This segment of the museum features twelve local musicians whose careers have brought national acclaim. A unique exhibit that may catch your eye is our Music Quilt, an interactive wooden sound sculpture. Just place your palm on any of the pieces and listen!

Cavers can investigate the Discovery Cavern to learn all about caves and bats, stalagmites and stalactites.

Local aviation history, airplanes, and a wind tunnel focuses on the history of flight.

Exhibit about Ashland resident, Jean Thomas, who in the early 20th century traveled throughout the hills and hollers of KY as a court reporter. She later organized the American Folk Song Festival – performances of songs and drama held every June in Thomas’ backyard.

Joyce Williams has attained a national reputation for her watercolor paintings and her works have gained consistent acceptance in juried exhibitions throughout the country. Awards totaling more than 130, plus three Gold Medals of Honor, four bronze medals and the gold and silver Brubacher medallions include those from the American Watercolor Society, Knickerbocker Artists, Allied Artists, Watercolor West, Salmagundi Club, National Arts Club, Audubon Artists, Kentucky Watercolor Society, Rocky Mountain Watermedia Association, Hudson Valley Art Association, and many more. Her work is included in private, corporate, and museum collections throughout the country and she is listed in Who’s Who in American Art and American Women in the Arts. Her work has been featured in several periodicals including Artist Magazine and North Light Magazine.

Ms. Williams is a graduate of Virginia Intermont College and the University of Kentucky. Joyce Williams was an Ashland native and resided in Lexington, Kentucky for a period of her life. She donated a portion of her collection of paintings for display, for sale, and for the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center’s permanent collections. The gift is a way for Mrs. Williams to bring the love of painting to people in her hometown.

Mrs. Williams said, “Coming to the conclusion that I believe that gifts of this type are better to be returned to your roots,” Mrs. Williams decided to make a lasting contribution of her paintings to the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center and the people of Ashland, “where I lived and raised our family.”

Joyce Williams Paintings
(Click on images below to zoom and for pricing information; contact the museum for more information)

Schedule your next meeting with us! This conference room features lovely artwork depicting early Ashland and will seat 30 people.

This exhibit provides a look at Ashland during WWII. Personal items and artifacts tell the story of soldiers from our area, as well as those who served on the Homefront.

Included is a replica of the Boyd County Honor Roll which contains the names of every man and woman from Boyd County, Kentucky who served in the military – there are approximately 7,000 names.

Other artifacts include Hitler’s bedside phone and much more memorabilia from the war.

This exhibit explores the lives of the early peoples of Kentucky.  Includes educational dioramas, artifacts and interactive displays.  Children can play in the hut or make a rubbing to take home.

Learn about how people live and the jobs they do along the Ohio River.

Visitors travel the Ohio River in Little Joe, a real tugboat. Young explorers will take a close look at boats and bridges as well as fish, frogs, and tents.

Brought to the museum through a partnership with Morehead State University’s Space Science Center. Visitors will learn about satellites, their construction and the programs offered at MSU. Included is the Highlands International Space Station where young visitors can experience a variety of features.

Visit a 19th century classroom! Dress in clothes of the era and become a student or teacher of the 19th century. Write on an original “blackboard” and drink from a bucket with a dipper: warm yourself by the potbelly stove.

See memorabilia from our local area including area high schools, colleges and professionals.

“Sports Sampler:  Selections from the Collection.”

Open now through March 2019, this exhibit gives a brief overview of three of the most popular sports:  basketball, football and baseball.  Includes items such as a 1930s football jersey, a commemorative mirror about the 1961  Tomcat Champions and items related to Ashland native former pro MLB Brandon Webb.  This exhibit is the kick off of a brand new rotating exhibit space that will focus on sports.

Offers an educational play area for children 5 and under.

Especially for children: 0-18 months offers a soft-sided play space for our youngest visitors.

Rotating Exhibits

The Highlands Museums has rotating exhibits on display; these change regularly. Toggle below for more information:

ParsonsRevisit the place where everyone once shopped in Ashland! The museum is housed in the former C.H. Parsons Department Store, once one of the greatest stores in the Tri-State. Artifacts, and photos tell the story of this once great place to shop.

This 19th century period was one of the great technological advances. See a series of inventions that first appeared during this time including sewing machines, radios, telephones, cameras and more.

100 years ago, the first “Great War” the “War to end all Wars” finally ended. Learn about the Homefront and the frontline as well as local heroes. Includes photos and artifacts from the war and time period.