Olmsted Parks exhibit

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With 18 parks spread throughout Louisville, thousands of people every year explore all nature has to offer, under the green tree canopies that make up the Olmsted Parks. A new exhibit at the Frazier History Museum invites people indoors to explore the history of the Olmsted Parks System.

"A lot of people know their neighborhood park and love their neighborhood park, but don't fully realize it's part of this really unique system, one of only four in the country," said Layla George, President of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

"Olmsted's Louisville" celebrates the master work of Frederick Law Olmsted. The American landscape architect is best known for his work on Central Park in New York, the U.S. Capitol Grounds in Washington D.C. and the Biltmore Estate grounds in North Carolina. His work in Louisville was one of his biggest accomplishments.

"We have the most comprehensive system he designed. It was the last of his work that he did before he retired," said George.

In addition to paying tribute to Olmsted and exploring his legacy, the display also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the non-profit tasked with caring for the green spaces.

"From the species and specimens of trees and plants that went into each park. I mean we still use that information today. When we plant trees all across our park system here, we still use the trees that he specified for those parks," said George.

Amanda Briede curated the exhibit for the Frazier, taking care with every last detail, down to the panels on the walls.

"We usually print those on plastic but with the Olmsted we wanted to go more natural so we used a lot of wood," she said.

The exhibit features historical documents, architectural plans, photographs of parks today and yesterday, as well as interactive content including a listening station.

"So you get a sense of the different ways the parks are activated in that part of the exhibit," said Briede.

Curating the exhibit came with some challenges.

"The architectural drawings of all of our parks are owned by the national parks system. They're at the national Olmsted national historic site and it's very difficult to get plans from then so they had to get creative.

"So this exhibit features plans from a lot of other Louisville landmarks that were designed by the Olmsted firm. So we have Bernheim and the library and lots of other places that you wouldn't necessarily think of with the Olmsted," said Briede.

They also relied on the community, inviting people to send in pictures of Big Rock, an iconic section of Cherokee Park.

"Like someone sent me pictures of his family at Big Rock in the 20s," said Briede.

As people make their way down the halls, Briede hopes it achieves one goal: inviting people indoors in hopes they'll head outdoors to explore.

"I think overall I want people to want to go to the parks," said Briede.

"Olmsted's Louisville" will run through October. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy is also celebrating 30 years with many events planned. Information on that can be found here.

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