Down a corridor hallway adjacent to the rotunda at the Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort sits an unassuming display case. Inside that case are items that have helped shape a nation, items full of rich stories about Kentucky and the military members who have honored the State with heroic service to the nation.
The display case and its contents blossomed from the spirit of giving and the need to do something with the gifts that were being given.
"The USS Kentucky reached out to me. They had requested that they fly state flags," said Jon Park, from the Governor's Office of Constituent Services. "As a thank you, the gentleman on the other end sent me some items."
Those items started out small, but kept coming as Park and others helped members of the USS Kentucky with their requests.
"We started talking about what to do to showcase these items," said Park. "Right around the same time, the USS Louisville reached out to us. We bounced the idea off the USS Louisville, and they sent more items to us."
Since then, Park and Zach Morgan, executive assistant at the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, have reached out to other military organizations around Kentucky, including Fort Knox. Museum curators at the Patton Museum responded with items that help to tell the installation's story.
"Fort Knox has loaned a handful of things, mostly having to do with the inter-war period around the Depression timeframe of the '30s, around the same time as they were doing the 3C camps," said Morgan. "At that time, it was still just Camp Knox. There's a uniform jacket from that timeframe and a couple of artifacts that were found on base, probably World War II-era."
Other artifacts include a piece of the keel from the USS Kentucky, a U.S. flag flown on the USS Louisville, a Kentucky flag flown on the USS Kentucky and a chemical mask from the Blue Grass Army Depot.
"That one stands out," said Morgan. "It kind of catches your eye because of its shape, like a face: a little bit unearthly."
Park said interest in the historical artifacts in the display case has grown.
"Now, when we walk around the corner there's always somebody there looking in the cases," Park said.
Morgan said the interest is high enough to warrant a possible permanent place in the capitol.
"We kind of add things as they come in," Morgan said. "The intent is to be a permanent living display, so we'll keep it here as long as we can. The people who manage the capitol haven't given us a time limit."
Morgan said visits to the display case are growing as word gets out, and as visitors stumble upon it while touring the capitol.
"I happened to be passing by the display case one day and there were some folks visiting the capitol," said Morgan. "Their little girl suddenly said, 'Mom, look at this.' It was a stuffed animal from the World War II era called Mickey the Mule.
"She just brought the whole tour to a screeching halt."
Morgan said the display case and the way it came about represent not only Kentucky's great history but also what makes Kentucky great.
"The things that we try to accomplish, we can't accomplish on our own," he said. "Anything we accomplish, we do in collaboration with other offices. This display case is an example of that."