The Bell County Historical Society houses a number of exhibits and collections in our museum, which is located in the historic Carnegie Library. Below is a brief description of each of our permanent exhibits so you will know what to look forward to when you visit the museum.

Early History

Among the exhibits depicting the Early History of the area is a display featuring the meteor impact that created the basin in which the City of Middlesborough now lies. This display shows the impact of the meteorite and includes several pieces of the meteorite as well as various rocks. It also explains the geologic importance of the meteor strike.

From the meteor we move to the days of American-Indian exploration and visits to the Cumberland Gap area, This exhibit feature effigies and arrow heads found in the area.

Moving forward we come to a display of early American artifacts and replicas, ca. 1700s. Depicted are items that would have been used by early pioneers, including burning glasses, moccasins, tobacco pipes, cutlery and various household items.

How We Used to Live

An exhibit showing how we used to live features many work and household items from the 1800s. Among these are hammers, axes, adzes, and other tools used to open the west for habitation. Other items include egg-separators and tea strainers, cast iron cook wear, clothing and other items used by the early settlers.

The display also features items from the 1900s including several advertising signs for products that may or may not me familiar to today’s museum visitors. One of the most viewed displays is an early 1900s Permanent Wave Machine.

Victorian Parlor


The Victorian Room which features a settee from the Booneway Inn.

The Museum’s “Victorian Parlor” is one of the most talked about exhibits in our permanent displays. It features a settee that was originally in the Booneway Hotel as well as a Victorian era pump organ. Other items includes a display featuring Ben Harney, the Father of Ragtime Music, who spent several years in Middlesborough. Also in this exhibit are various personal items such as Christening Gowns, Baptismal Gown, Dresser sets and more!


The Museum’s library contains hundreds of volumes of texts about the area. Many of these are rare, hard-to-find books.  The Museum library also contains a wealth of genealogical information including several complete histories of the families who settled the Bell County and Cumberland Gap Area. The library is available for research for the public during the Museum’s normal hours of operation, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.


The Archives of the Bell County Historical Museum contain several thousand historic photos of the area. Most of these are in the public domain and available to the public. The Archives also contain many items used in daily life in our area. These items are available to dedicated historical researchers. The Archives are not open to the public for “browsing” but Museum staff is available to located and retrieve any items contained in the Archives for those doing research of our area.


Center aisle of the museum. These are rotating displays that will be changed every couple of months.

Temporary Exhibits

The center section of the front portion of the Museum (just as you enter the building) features our temporary or “rotating” exhibits. Some of these have includes Susan Kingsley, and actress from Middlesborough; The Great Carazini (Jim Williams), a world-renowned magician from Pineville, Kentucky; and a Poetry Month display which featured local poets, past and present. To keep abreast of these Temporary Exhibits please follow our blog and news feeds on this site.


An aluminum bicycle with hard rubber tires, ca. 1897.


The Victorian Room which features a settee from the Booneway Inn.


Center aisle of the museum. These are rotating displays that will be changed every couple of months.