Honoring the Past While Looking to the Future



Grace Phillips

The Ashland Beacon

   The Highlands Museum and Discovery Center was abuzz with activity last Thursday. It was time to say thank you to Carol Allen for her service as director of the museum for the past 10 years. The museum saw many changes in her time there.  According to Allen, when she first became director the museum was in danger of losing the building that was its home.  “We had to get busy and start raising some money.”  They were able to purchase the building and secure the future of the museum.  With that accomplished, there was no place to stop. 

   Allen, working with the Friends of the Highlands, has seen many visions become reality during her time as director.  A convention center for weddings and events, a space science center for the children was built with a partnership with Morehead State Space Science program, they obtained a Community Block Development Grand that made possible many much needed renovations to the facility, but it was clear that the project nearest to Allen’s heart was the Clark Family Discovery center that is now under construction.  “We hope to have it open next summer,” she then pointed to a new coin orbiter bearing her name, “and that’s what I’ve always wanted for the museum. So if everybody will drop their money in we will be on our way.”

   When asked if she could point to one thing that she felt was her legacy and greatest accomplishment, Allen paused as if thinking back over the past years.  That’s when Matthew Warnock, who was standing nearby interjected, “I think it would have to be getting the framework for the upstairs Discovery Center going…that’s the future of the Museum…that will keep this open for decades to come.”  Allen added, “I think I would have to agree.  Under my leadership we have raised about 1.3 million for the project.”  Warnock went on to say, “Carol has been an integral part of keeping this place open and taking it to the next level.  She is going to be hard to replace but Kim Jenkins has been very hands on with the new Discovery center and will be a great transition, but to follow in Carol’s footsteps is going to be really tough.”

   Kim Jenkins is the new Director of the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.  She has worked closely with Allen over the past few years and has been a major part of the development of the new state of the art Clark Family Discovery center.  As she talks about the new center her eyes begin to twinkle with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.  “It’s the real deal and we just can’t wait to get it open.”    Jenkins went on to say they were half way through the capital funding campaign.  “People are just amazed at what we did with that money.  We built out the second floor during the pandemic when the museum was closed.  It is 100 percent ready for the exhibits to be fabricated and brought in.”  The new Discovery Center will have fourteen interactive exhibit, a theatre, and two classrooms.  “Getting this open is so important because it will be the catalyst to building out the rest of the museum.”  Jenkins may have big shoes to fill but it is quite obvious she is up for the challenge. 

   On July 1, Carol Allen will move on to the next chapter of her life.  She has been a teacher, worked on a magazine, and director of a museum, but now she plans on moving south to be a full time grandma.  She has a granddaughter that will be graduating from the University of Kentucky as well as a 12-year-old grandson.   “My grandson is very active in sports.  I plan on spending a lot of time watching his games and enjoying my family.”  Mayor Matt Perkins presented Allen with a key to the city.  He said it was being given so she knew she could always come home.  Allen has left the Highlands Museum with an amazing legacy and the building blocks for a bright future.  Thank you for your contribution and dedication to our community.