The Headley-Whitney Museum's fascinating and diverse collection of jewels, artifacts, shells, books, and much more has long been an icon of art and culture in Lexington, KY.
Founded by jewelry designer, George Headley and his wife, Barbara Whitney in 1968, the Headley-Whitney Museum features rotating exhibits, a gift shop, events, and educational workshops on 13 acres of beautiful grounds that also happen to be the perfect picnic spot!
George Headley studied art in New York and Paris in the 1930's before going to work in Beverly Hills. Opening his own shop, he made a name for himself designing jewelry for the stars. He moved back home to Kentucky in 1949 to be nearer his aging parents and settled into La Belle farm, where he continued to live at, off and on, for the rest of his life. It was here that he met and married Barbara Whitney.
Despite leaving LA, Headley continued to design both the jewelry and bibelots he was known for. Bibelots (pronounced: "bib-low" - French for knickknack) are small, ornate and intricately crafted objects, often made of gems and precious metals. It was these bibelots that became Headley's prime obsession. In 1968, he added a room to the house for his collection of bibelots and his library of art books: the beginnings of the Headley-Whitney Museum.
It was another ten years before he shared what would become the Headley-Whitney Museum with the public. The museum now includes the aforementioned Jewel Room and Library, a Shell Grotto, rose garden, and a collection of huge, elaborate dollhouses that you have to see to believe.
The Jewel Room and Library houses over 1,500 books of fine art as well as a several of Headley's eclectic collections. The Shell Grotto's interior walls are covered with seashells and polished stones, has a coral slab floor, and holds Headley's collection of shells and fossils. The rose garden is planted with pink and red knockout roses and is a replica of Marylou Whitney's garden in New York.
Along with these attractions, the Headley-Whitney Museum displays a collection of Headley's jewelery and bibelots as well as hosting traveling exhibits and offering a wide variety of workshops & events throughout the year. If you're in Lexington, be sure to stop by!