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Following is the original proposal for the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument. We are proposing a World Class venue. Nothing less will suffice. The support for this project has been overwhelmingly positive.

This proposal was presented in 2002. Changes from the original due to subsequent experience are noted in [brackets].

Eastern Kentucky

Heritage Monument

-A Proposal-

To celebrate, honor and affirm the cultural, economic and historical contributions of the people of Eastern Kentucky we hereby propose the "Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument."


David Musser, Project Director Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument PO Box 1003 Campton, KY 41301  (c) 2002

picture of the Monument model.

A Brief Description

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument consists of three large, steel, stylized traditional instruments- a guitar, banjo and fiddle- resting on a round, stepped, concrete platform covered by a façade of recycled Civilian Conservation Corps sandstone. The instruments are arranged in a triangular pattern.

The framework of each instrument, which defines the shape, is made of steel. The framework is the sculpture. There are no solid tops or backs.

The instruments, in addition to their attributes as sculpture, are giant wind harps. A visitor standing between the instruments will hear the harmonic vibrations caused by the wind blowing across the strings.

Inscribed on the platform floor are the autographs and hometowns of Eastern Kentucky musicians, authors and artists. The goal is to honor a diverse cross-section of deserving Eastern Kentucky artists ranging from the famous to the back porch variety.

The monument sits on top of a hill. The combination of visual and auditory stimuli will be quite stunning, truly astonishing and absolutely unforgettable.

Sketch of Monument Site.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument


The visiting family, traveling down the Mountain Parkway, climbs Slade Hill onto the Pottsville Escarpment. There is no doubt they have left the flatland behind and entered an extraordinary place, the Appalachian Mountains. Soon, they see in the distance, proudly perched atop a hill, the whimsical outline of giant musical instruments. The view brings a smile. And that initial smile sets the tone for the entire Eastern Kentucky adventure.

The family exits the Parkway and drives to the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument parking lot. The Monument, above and beyond the Welcome Center, looms large and beckons them onward. They enter the Welcome Center, take a quick look around as they search for the restrooms, and then gather at the foot of the stairs to start the ascent to the mountaintop.

The stairs are wide. The step rise is gentle, the tread is deep. It is an easy, but not short climb. The children surge ahead, the parents call them back. When they reach the viewing platform they are slightly winded. Their first view at the top is accompanied by deep oxygen seeking breaths. By their effort, they have paid the pilgrims’ toll.

The instruments powerfully draw their attention upward. The impossibly large instruments are not only framed by the sky but actually filled with the sky. The family feels the exhilaration of standing on a mountaintop. The sensation is marvelous and overwhelming. The family stands in wonder as their gaze drifts among the giant sculptures.

They are unconsciously drawn to the center of the viewing platform to get a more balanced perspective. They do not notice walking across the names inscribed on the floor nor do they observe the large map of Kentucky under their feet.

Slowly, they become conscious of the quiet, delightful sound of shifting harmonic overtones produced by the wind blowing across the strings of the instruments. It gradually occurs to them that the sound is coming from the instruments, played by an unseen hand.

A scientist might point out that the neurons in the spatial, visual and imaginative centers of the brain have been firing at a prodigious rate. The auditory centers are now demanding attention. The scientist would call this a "right-brain" event.

Eventually, our visitors begin a general survey of their surroundings. They enjoy the panoramic mountaintop view and feel the wind in their faces. They begin to notice their fellow visitors and the shared sense of elation.

In due time they look down- partially to relieve the neck muscles but mainly to restore mental equilibrium. They discover that they are standing on a large map of Kentucky. They note the rivers, the cities, the towns, various points of interest and the colors depicting elevation and vegetation.

Our scientist friend would point out that the neurons in the logical, analytical, objective centers of the brain are becoming active. The scientist would call this a "left-brain" event. And the left-brain, in order to reclaim dominance after the shameless indulgence by the right-brain, is going to be very much engaged. In the next few minutes, our visitors will learn a great deal about the topography of Kentucky.

Our visitors next notice that what they thought was an abstract design on the floor is actually signatures- signatures accompanied by the name of a town. Some of the names they recognize. Most they do not. A passerby comments that the signatures are color-coded. The ones in black are authors, the ones in blue are musicians, the ones in red… But they are all Kentuckians.

In time, our visitors tire and sit on a bench. Here they reflect on the experience and allow their minds to rest. They enjoy the moment; the art, the view, the sounds, the place. They relax.

In due course, it is time to go. Rather than return by the stairs, they choose to take the gently sloping path. The path is attractively and thoughtfully landscaped. Native plants and trees are marked for identification. Partway down, they intersect the walking trail that circumnavigates the Monument. As they near the bottom and approach the stairs they first ascended, the family notices the path leading to the amphitheater. But the desire for a snack lures them back to the Welcome and Information Center.

After a light lunch they tour the Welcome Center. The circular floor plan encourages them to make the full circuit. They pass the artists’ displays and appreciate the high quality. They might purchase an item. At the music section a couple of people are playing old time mountain music. The family lingers at the educational displays. Next, they stop awhile at the first electronic interactive map. The names of all the people they saw on the monument floor are here. They press one. "James Still." A light flashes on the map at Troublesome Creek in Knott County. A recording begins, "Though the sun-ball breaks the ridges into dust. Being of these hills, being one with the fox, I cannot pass beyond …"

Returning to the main foyer, our visitors are ready for information concerning the places of interest for their Eastern Kentucky adventure. There is the normal rack of brochures to which they will later return. But first they go to the large map and see what Eastern Kentucky has to offer. Close by are several four-sided kiosks. Each side has an interactive map of the region. Our visitors press "Cumberland Falls" and the route from the Monument to Cumberland Falls is lit on the map. (Or the route from "Pine Mountain" to "Cumberland Falls" depending on how the vacation is planned.) Simultaneously, a short video of Cumberland Falls appears on the monitor. "Wow," exclaim our visitors, "we have to go there!" And so on.

A visit to the Gift Shop is next. And then, perhaps, one more excursion back to the Monument. The ever-changing sky makes every trip unique.

Aerial graphic.

The Importance of Image

When a person thinks of a particular geographic location the thought is usually associated with a specific image. Mention Paris and the Eiffel Tower comes to mind. China- the Great Wall. Allude to Hawaii or Florida and immediately and involuntarily a mental picture of beaches and palm trees is conjured.

In the case of Paris and the Eiffel Tower the image is specific. In the case of Hawaii or Florida the image is general. Both cases fall into the category of Public Myth, the eternal spring of the Advertising and Tourism Industry. Eastern Kentucky needs a specific image, a focal point, that represents the entire region.

If the words "Eastern Kentucky" are mentioned to a person from outside the area, what image is evoked? At best, a vague picture of a backward, slightly mysterious region. At worst- feuds, moonshine, poverty and environmental degradation.

If Eastern Kentucky is to prosper, it is imperative that we redefine our image in the Public Myth.

Redefining the Image of Eastern Kentucky

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument reinvents the image of Eastern Kentucky into one of our own choosing. No longer will we labor under the negative and incorrect stereotypes forced upon us by the powerful public media from outside the area. Our Monument will celebrate our strengths, our contributions and what is good about Eastern Kentucky.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument must, absolutely and unequivocally, adhere to the highest artistic and architectural values.

Our monument represents and uplifts the image of all of Eastern Kentucky. It is a powerful, affirmative, confident symbol.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument will be our international logo.

Panoramic view. 


The impact of The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument on tourism is truly enormous. It represents an ongoing value far beyond the monument’s cost. While Eastern Kentucky has many wonderful places worth visiting, there is no single point of reference that defines Eastern Kentucky in the mind of an out-of-state visitor. Our Monument, along with the publicity it would generate, would provide the focal point that firmly establishes Eastern Kentucky as a particular place and uniquely mysterious region worth visiting. This Monument would create a specific image- friendly, slightly whimsical, and unabashedly proud- that would benefit tourism in all of Eastern Kentucky.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument is the representative image of all Eastern Kentucky. It is not a solitary destination but rather the starting point for the Eastern Kentucky adventure. It is the staging area for further exploration of the region. All of Eastern Kentucky will benefit.

A primary objective of the Monument, and particularly of the Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center, is to promote tourism throughout all of Eastern Kentucky. After touring the Monument and Information Center, the visitor is better informed about the opportunities available in Eastern Kentucky. But more importantly, the visitor is more comfortable about Eastern Kentucky in general. Informed and comfortable visitors translate into an economic windfall for the entire region.

Cultural Contributions Worthy of Celebration

In proportion to its size, Eastern Kentucky has produced an inordinate number of musicians, artists and writers. Many of these people have national name recognition. But the true significance of this phenomenon is the cultural milieu that allowed these artists to develop. The isolation of the Eastern Kentucky mountains produced a people with a unique cultural perspective appreciated by a worldwide audience. Our artists continue to contribute to the national and international arts community.

The coalfields of Eastern Kentucky in the early part of the twentieth century had arguably the most ethnically diverse constituency of any region in America. One mine reported workers from thirty-eight nations. English, Welsh, Polish, German, Scotch, Irish and Italians along with ex-slaves from the south contributed their distinctive point of view to the growing culture of Appalachia. This led to an equality seldom, if ever, duplicated in this country. One prominent writer has called current Eastern Kentucky "the most classless society in America."

Eastern Kentucky’s role in history should also be honored. Daniel Boone, westward expansion, the Wilderness Trail, Cumberland Gap, the coal industry and military volunteerism are some of the historical landmarks worthy of distinction.

There are many reasons Eastern Kentucky should be honored with a monument.

Celebration center

Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center

[The Celebration Center]

The Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center will also adhere to the highest quality standards. It is not a "tourist trap." It will in no way perpetuate old, negative stereotypes.

The primary function of the Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center is to provide the visitors with the information to better plan and organize their stay in Eastern Kentucky. "User Friendly" interactive computer kiosks will help the visitors familiarize themselves with all of what Eastern Kentucky has to offer. They will be able to prepare their trip more thoughtfully, see and visit more areas, and thereby extend their stay.

The Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center will help the visitor understand, organize and integrate the various tourism projects initiated by State and Federal programs.

The Gift Shop contains only items made in Kentucky. The items are juried and of high quality. Nothing "tacky." The Gift Shop plays a secondary role at the Center. It is not the dominant feature.

There are areas for visual artists, photographers, textile artists, potters, and craftspeople to display and sell their work. There will also be areas to showcase Kentucky authors and musicians.

The rest rooms are large.

The footprint of the Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center is round (or oval) with an open space in the middle. This space is used for open-air dining from the snack bar as well as for resting and relaxing. The round shape invites the visitor to take a circular tour of the Center.

The Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center, as well as the parking lot, is located below and away from the Monument. It is separate from the Monument in both physical distance and emotional content.

[We now call this feature the Information and Celebration Center to more accurately describe its function.]

Map of KY.


Although several places could lay claim to host the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument there is only one location that would benefit and represent the entire region equally. That location is in Wolfe County somewhere between the top of Slade Hill and the divergence of The Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway and Route 15 in Campton. This is both the geographical center of Eastern Kentucky and the "Gateway to the Mountains."

The Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway is the undisputed lifeline to Eastern Kentucky.

Slade Hill marks the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains. Any point prior to this, though technically Eastern Kentucky, is geologically associated with the "Bluegrass" or the "Knobs."

Campton is the final point in common to any traveler continuing into the mountains. The Mountain Parkway carries people to Salyersville, Prestonsburg, Paintsville and Pikeville. Route 15 carries people to Jackson, Hazard, Hindman, and Whitesburg. A location of the Monument along either route would exclude half of the region and thereby exacerbate our regional problems rather than help solve them.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument at this location provides and opens the door to all of Eastern Kentucky. Everyone in Eastern Kentucky benefits equally. No one is left out. Everyone wins.

Picture of the model.

Size and Scale

The size of the monument is dependent on the specific location. The monument must be proportional to its environment, especially as viewed from the adjacent highway. Monuments, by definition, are large.

The mistake of scale and proportion as demonstrated by Louisville’s Ohio River water fountain must be avoided. The size of the fountain, which was very large up close, was far too small against the backdrop of the river.

The size of the instruments as depicted in the graphic representation within this proposal is to give the reader a general idea of the project. It is not to scale. The actual size would depend on the location of the monument (scaled in proportion to the surroundings), structural considerations, and funding. Let us assume the hypothetical height of the instruments to be fifty to seventy-five feet tall. Further research will determine the specifications.

The instruments must be large enough to imprint the sky when viewed from a distance but small enough to be recognizable when viewed from the platform. Placing the instruments on pedestals would help solve this problem. Tall pedestals would also provide a safety deterrent to prevent people from climbing on the instruments.

[Consultations by the artist with professional metal fabricating companies located in Kentucky have determined a combined height of the tallest instrument and pedestal to be 85 feet tall. The instruments vary in height. The spiral banding will extend a few feet higher.]

Quality, Sincerity and Excellence

A monument makes a serious statement. It stands for something important. A monument is on a completely different philosophical level than a park or roadside tourist attraction. The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument, though friendly, slightly whimsical and unabashedly proud, projects a feeling of reverence and respect for the area. While our monument represents our cultural contributions of the past, it also ambitiously signifies our progressive expectations of the future. It must be of the highest artistic integrity and credibility. It will be a place of both reflection and celebration.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument is not a place primarily designed to separate a tourist from his or her dollar. The Monument is our gift to the visitor- a gift proudly given.

Wind Harps

The giant guitar, banjo and fiddle of the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument are wind harps.

About Wind Harps

Wind Harps, also called Aeolian Harps, are among the most ancient of mechanical instruments. From ancient Greece we hear of a stringed box played by Aeolus, god of the wind.

In principle, the wind harp is very simple. A number of strings are placed over a sound chamber and the wind causes the strings to vibrate and thereby produce a sound. The science behind the sound is not so straightforward. Scientists have been arguing about it since the 1650’s.

Generally, a number of strings of various diameters are tuned to the same pitch. The air current causes the strings to vibrate but due to the different string diameters (and therefore tensions, since they are tuned to the same note) the strings do not vibrate uniformly. The sound produced is not only the expected fundamental note but also a wide series of overtones (also called harmonics) which continually change with the intensity of the wind.

Technically speaking, the frequency of any Aeolian tone is equal to the product of the air stream times a constant (normally .185, known as the Strouhal number) divided by the string diameter. Practically speaking, the wind harp makes a lot of really cool sounds. Descriptions of the sound range from haunting to ethereal to delightful.

The Saint Louis Science Center, Dallas Arboretum, The Denver Communications Building and the Port of San Diego, among others, have small wind harp sculptures- up to fifteen feet. The Puget Sound has one twenty-six feet tall.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument will have the three largest wind harps in the world.


Concerning the Signatures

The signatures of noteworthy Eastern Kentuckians are scattered across the viewing platform floor. To preserve and honor the value of community, the hometown is also identified. Nationally famous, regionally recognized and locally significant people are all included. The signatures are uniformly dispersed. There is not a specific area for the more famous. This demonstrates that it was the collective heritage that nurtured certain people to prominence and that they are a part of, rather than separate from, the overall community.

The signatures are enlarged to approximately five inches tall and twenty inches long. They are etched into the floor and filled with colored epoxy. The different colors represent various artistic disciplines. There would be a cost involved in having a name inscribed. A process would be established to determine eligibility. County governments or recognized arts organizations would be involved in the selection process.

Graphic showing layout.

Other Nice Touches

The Monument sits on a hill above and beyond the parking area and the Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center. The Monument is completely free of commercial activity.

A gentling sloping paved trail provides an optional approach to the Monument. The trail conforms to the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements (ADA compliant.) However, it is not the "handicapped ramp." It is an integral and important feature of the Monument. Indigenous plants and trees alongside the landscaped trail are marked for identification and educational purposes.

In the center of the viewing platform, on the floor, is a twenty-four foot map of Kentucky. Depicted are the rivers, geological features, cities, towns, and points of interest. Arising from the map is a double-helix banding that spirals upward to connect the instruments. While essentially a structural element to provide stability, the banding will incorporate icons representing various aspects of Appalachian life: arrow heads, a miners hat, pick and shovel, skillet, ear of corn, animals, etc. By touching the banding, the visitor will be physically connected to the instruments and to the history of the region represented by the icons.

A walking path circumnavigates the Monument.


A grass amphitheater provides a suitable location for small to medium concerts.

The Welcome, Information and Interpretive Center provides artists from throughout Eastern Kentucky a venue for showing their work to large numbers of people. The work will be juried to maintain high standards. A process, determined by the arts community, would provide equitable exhibiting time and space to qualified artists and craftspeople.

The lighting for the Monument is slow and stately. The multi-colored hues change over the course of long minutes rather than seconds. There could be, however, times when a flashy light and laser show would be appropriate. Nighttime visits would be quite enjoyable. Sunsets on the Monument would also be very stunning, especially for visitors from distant cities.

Concerning the Artistic Merits of the Vision

The design and vision of The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument are of international artistic significance. Artistically, our monument is unique and will warrant world-wide comment. It is simultaneously conservative and avant-garde. It will provide a cornucopia of intellectual stimuli for art critics, travel writers and advertisement agencies.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument is our international logo.

Some monuments, for example, Mt. Rushmore, are appreciated from a distance. Some monuments, such as the St. Louis Arch or the Washington Monument, allow two perspectives of appreciation. One, as visual landmarks viewed from a distance and two, as structures the visitor can enter and enjoy by viewing the surroundings from the monument apex.

In the second type of monument, the visitor, protected within and atop the structure, is limited to a relatively small viewing space. They, in essence, become the "eye" of the monument.

Our Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument goes further. Our visitors become the "soul" of the monument. They are inside the instruments and walk about freely where they will. They are "part of" the monument. Our visitors are exposed to, and partners with, the natural elements of wind, clouds and temperature. In addition to visual and intellectual stimuli we have ever-changing auditory impressions determined by current wind speed conditions.

Most monuments are essentially static. Ours is dynamic.

Most monuments say, "Hey, look at me." Our Monument says, "Come and personally participate in a uniquely Eastern Kentucky experience." This is an artistic and intellectual breakthrough in monument design and vision.

We can also boast of the "world’s largest" in several categories: guitar, banjo, fiddle, wind harps.

Furthermore, this unique vision is comfortable and acceptable to Appalachian sensibilities of art. It is recognizable, non-confrontational, and elevates the emotions. Appalachian art readily embraces the bold, the daring, and the audacious as evidenced by our quilts and folk art. But most of all, Appalachian art makes sense. Our Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument, which is far more artistically complex than it first appears, makes perfect sense.

About the Artist

Sam McKinney is one of Eastern Kentucky’s finest artists and most prominent sculptors. He has graciously signed on as the lead artist for the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument. Mr. McKinney’s artistic credentials and standing in the art world are of the highest caliber.

With Mr. McKinney as lead artist, the artistic integrity of our Monument is assured. The Art Community cannot second-guess or question our choice.

Although good art is not "done by committee," Sam is very interested in listening to the creative ideas and genuine concerns of people from the area.

Sam is a native Eastern Kentuckian.

To learn more about the art of Sam McKinney, visit his web site:

Cost Estimate

The cost of The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument needs to be viewed in the context of its contributions in making Eastern Kentucky a viable competitor in regional, national and international tourism. The cost must be weighed against the value of reshaping the area’s image into one with a positive reflection of meaningful and important cultural contributions. The question is not, therefore, how much does it cost but what is it worth? What is it worth in terms of a positive image of Eastern Kentucky? What is it worth in terms of tourism and the accompanying dollars to the region? What is it worth in terms of the pride of our people? What is it worth when the whole world knows that Eastern Kentucky is a truly remarkable place?

Whatever it costs, it is worth infinitely more.

Naturally, the availability of funds would determine the scope of the project. Considering that The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument will change the image of Eastern Kentucky and that quality can not be compromised, a cost estimate of $13 - $20 million is a reasonable figure for a project that would meet the minimum criteria.

[This proposal was presented in 2002. At that time the cost was estimated at $5.7 million by the local planning committee. In 2006, professional reviews raised the cost estimate to the numbers above. $13.5 million is generally accepted as the working figure.]

Projected Attendance

A conservative estimate of 2.5+ million visitors per year is projected upon completion of the Monument. This number will substantially rise as tourism increases throughout Eastern Kentucky.

[This proposal was presented in 2002. Professional analysis in 2004 showed the original number to be highly optimistic. The professional visitation projection estimate is 282,500 the first year and rising to 706,300 by the third.]

Comments, Information and Support

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument is a grassroots project. Your input is important. We actively seek and wholeheartedly welcome your ideas, comments and assistance.

The response to The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument from people, communities and organizations throughout the region has been overwhelmingly positive. If your club or organization has not yet signed a letter of support, please do so. If you would like a guest speaker to address your organization concerning this project, please contact us.

The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. Contributions to the Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument are tax deductible.

The Appalachian Heritage Alliance has been the principal sponsor for The Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument Project from the beginning. We thank them for their support. The Appalachian Heritage Alliance is a community based, not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization.

The Mountain Parkway Trails Corridor, a division of Southern And Eastern Kentucky Tourism Association, has endorsed the Monument as their priority project. We thank them for their support.

On the web at:


phone: (606) 725-4860

Write to us at:

Eastern Kentucky Heritage Monument

PO Box 1220 Campton, KY 41301