Introduction

Keeneland crowd

A million photographic prints and negatives dating from the late 1800s are included in the Keeneland Library's collections.

From the Vault: Historic Tracks was the first exhibit in a two-part series featuring the historic photographs. The exhibit highlights 26 of these rich documentary resources, with a focus on racing fans' engagement with U.S. tracks over time. From tracks that operated for less than a decade to tracks still running today, the exhibit's early 20th century emphasis spotlights New York, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and California courses, providing glimpses into the experience of racegoers at various moments in history.

The exhibits showcases the work of pioneering Turf photographers John C. Hemment and Charles Christian Cook, with additional representation from Joel Clyne Meadors and Robert Lee McClure, among others. 

Several images were reproduced from one-of-a-kind photographic prints, and many were developed from glass plate negatives that are more than a century old. They each speak to the relationship between people and a place. Over time, people engaged with racetracks not only in their design and creation but in their experiences as racegoers. The exhibit's photos provide us with some insight into what comprised those experiences in the first half of the 20th century. 

Introduction