To mark the Speed’s 90th anniversary in 2017, Wonderland Museum plumbs the museum’s collection to reveal curious treasures of art and history, many of which have rarely been on view. Ranging from historical marvels to very personal mementoes, these objects reflect the broader interests of the museum’s founder Hattie Bishop Speed, those of her friends, and those of Louisville at large. They speak to a museum that, in its early decades, not only brought great art to the city but also served as a community repository.
Some of the more remarkable objects in the exhibition, which numbers over 100 works, include wax portraits of Hattie Bishop Speed and her husband J.B. Speed, a plaster cast of one of Mrs. Speed’s hands, a concept drawing for Disney’s Bambi, elaborate bird-feather fans, a cane said to have been made by Thomas Lincoln (Abraham’s father), tiny gold nuggets from the 1849 California gold rush, and a chair from Louisville’s old Galt House hotel.
Mrs. Speed’s generous spirit contributed to the wide range of objects that found their way into the museum’s collection: soon after she announced her decision to build the Speed, many individuals responded by offering to donate or sell objects of all kinds. The community-minded Mrs. Speed often responded in the affirmative, building a diverse collection that mixed art, history, and more than a few curiosities. Even in the decades after her death in 1942, donations of unusual objects continued. Wonderland Museum presents only a few of the more curious episodes in the Speed’s collection, which today numbers over 13,000 objects.