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History from a fresh perspective

BY WHITNEY PRATHER DUVALL

Sweet Owen Contributor

20-YEAR-OLD JACOB LILLY’S love of history began in his fourth-grade History of Kentucky class. Since then, the recent Kentucky State University graduate has paid his education and experiences forward by providing tours and research assistance at the Owen County Historical Society and Museum. — All photos by Whitney Prather Duvall

At 20 years old, Jacob Lilly has already graduated with his bachelor’s degree in social sciences with a specialization in history from Kentucky State University. While his expeditious completion of college is impressive, it pales in comparison to the zeal he has for state and local history.

“I started to develop a huge interest in history in the fourth grade,” Lilly said. “One of my favorite areas to study is the history of our own state. A class I took in fourth grade—Kentucky History—cemented a love for learning about the past.

“I still remember how much I enjoyed the textbook we read. Even today, many of my favorite historical sites to visit are just a few counties away. As a child, I constantly begged my parents to take my sisters and me on visits to sites like My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Lincoln’s birthplace, etc. Seeing so many historically and culturally significant sites in person also helped grow my love of history.”

And now, Jacob is paying his education and experiences forward. Between shifts at Frankfort’s Buffalo Trace Distillery and the Liberty Hall Historic Site, you’ll likely find Jacob available for tours or research assistance at the Owen County Historical Society, located in the JC Hartsough home on Owenton’s Main Street.

With an impressive resume of historical site work under his belt, including the Kentucky Historical Society and the Butler-Turpin State Historic House, Jacob enjoys promoting the Owen County History Museum whenever he can. Boasting two stories of rooms packed with displays, files, and books, visitors can be immersed in local artifacts and heritage.

“That’s one of the things I love about this museum—things are set out, and visitors can have a hands-on experience here,” Jacob said.

There is no doubt his love for history—and a good heart—fuels Jacob’s desire to give back to his community by volunteering with the historical society and museum.

“I think history and museums are extremely important,” he said. “While we may have the chance to learn about interesting historical figures or events in school, museums provide the unique ability for us to get up close and personal with history. I believe the artifacts preserved and displayed in museums provide us with connections to the past we can’t find anywhere else.”

Jacob began volunteering for various historical groups while still in high school, surprising many older museum professionals with his love and knowledge of history and preservation.

“My age is something I will use to my advantage moving forward,” he added. “One of the best things I’ve been able to do to support myself is to develop networking opportunities within the field and make a name for myself amongst museums and historic sites.

“In some of my positions, I’ve had the chance to volunteer or work alongside other young people with a history or museum interest, but I believe it is still pretty unusual, as history is one of the subject areas that many young people, unfortunately, don’t take an interest in. It’s always a bit funny for me to prove people wrong in their perceptions of young professionals. I love working in the tourism industry and having the chance to improve and develop the experiences museum visitors enjoy.”

When not immersing himself in local history, Jacob also enjoys spending time with his family and researching his family history. He said he also tries to write down his great-aunt Ann’s stories as often as possible, so those oral histories and folklore are not lost for future generations

With regard to his work with the Owen County museum, Jacob is focused on expansion and development.

“I’d love to see our museum expand our current programming and exhibits, and in general, I’d like to see our visitor numbers increase as we have a lot of interesting artifacts for people to check out,” he said. “You don’t have to go far to learn something new."

JACOB LILLY sifts through a historical surname filing cabinet at the Owen County Historical Society and Museum.

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