Camp Nelson receives award For Underground Railroad exhibit

Published 2:08 pm Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Camp Nelson National Monument Superintendent Ernie Price and Chief of Interpretation Steve Phan accepted the 2024 Kentucky Historical Society Education Exhibit Award.

According to a Facebook post by Camp Nelson, this award was presented to Camp Nelson National Monument for its new National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Exhibit that interprets the lives and experiences of African American soldiers in Kentucky during the Civil War, the experiences of their families, and the legacy of service from US Colored Troops to that of Buffalo Soldiers. 

The exhibit, sponsored by Camp Nelson National Momument’s partner, the Camp Nelson Foundation – Friends group for Camp Nelson National Monument features individual biographies of soldiers and civilians, including photographs and uniforms, and was designed, installed, and unveiled by the park team including volunteers inside the Barracks building in July last year. 

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Barracks fill the building now, with each bed displaying a case in front of it with a picture of a soldier and items that individuals used in their daily lives, like matches, razors, a pipe, and a journal. Although upon opening some of these glass cases, the biographies were not yet included, Phan could immediately recall the individual’s life story. 

The exhibit also features civilian workers, including a farrier and an equine hoof care expert outfitted with the correct tools. Phan said the team plans to add even more civilian worker displays.

While civilian workers’ records weren’t kept, as were the soldiers’ records, women, particularly African-American women, worked as cooks and washerwomen at Camp Nelson. In 2023, Phan said those workers’ scenes would soon be recreated in the exhibit.

Now, they’ve added just that. A biography featuring African American laundresses or washerwomen in the exhibit was added in April.

“We will be editing the text soon because Dr. Amy Taylor shared some of her research featuring the names of Black women employed as cooks, and we want to make sure their names are listed and read by visitors,” said Phan.

“This award is a testament to the inspired work performed by staff members, and many incredible partners and community stakeholders. We are so grateful and honored! We invite everyone to visit this engaging exhibit and create their own connection experience during your next visit to Camp Nelson National Monument,” reads the ending of a Facebook post by Camp Nelson National Monument.