Preserve Doc Coffey’s Legacy

This campaign ended on August 01, 2020, but you can still make a gift to Western Kentucky University by clicking here!

Did you know “Doc” Coffey? 

A Professor of Agriculture for more than 35 years, Dr. David M. “Doc” Coffey was a world traveler throughout his life. In leading numerous study abroad trips for WKU students and Department of Agriculture colleagues, Doc Coffey collected masks produced by the cultures he visited. He was also given masks as gifts from students, family and friends.

Doc Coffey’s collection of 140 masks now resides at the Kentucky Museum and has been featured in installations including one in the WKU Art Department Corridor Gallery. As the Art Department recalled on their website dedicated to the collection, “Dr. Coffey was an expert at creating community – and many within his broad community of family, colleagues, former students and friends are part of the story of this collection, or ‘faces behind the masks.’”

As we published on our blog, the masks continue to have a significant impact today. Notably, the masks were the primary project for the late Pamela Ryals, who volunteered her time, knowledge, and passion for preserving cultural knowledge and led efforts to catalog and photograph the masks. Additionally, the masks were recently featured in a study conducted by Dr. J. Farley Norman (WKU, Pyschological Sciences) and Gatton Academy student Sydney P. Wheeler (2019, Greenwood High School), which was the first scientific study to look at whether masks can communicate emotion.

For $25, you can adopt one of the masks and ensure the Museum and our faculty, students, and volunteers can continue to document, research, and preserve Doc Coffey’s legacy. All gifts go directly to purchasing conservation supplies for the collection and completing cataloging and digitization of the masks into our online collections portal, KenCat.

To adopt a mask:

  • View the list in the Google doc by clicking here. You will need the “Number” in the second column of the mask(s) you wish to adopt. Be mindful that the third column shows a name if the mask has been adopted.
  • Click the button on this page to make a gift of $25 per mask. 
  • Email tiffany.isselhardt@wku.edu with your choice of mask (the "Number"). We will log it on the Google doc.
  • We will process your gift through the WKU Foundation and send a letter with your adoption certificate via mail. Adopter’s names are listed in the mask record (internally and, once complete, our KenCat portal) and on all future exhibit labels associated with the mask.

P.S. Prefer to give via check? Make your check payable to WKU Foundation, with a note for “Coffey Mask” and the Number of the mask, then mail to:

Kentucky Museum

Attn: Tiffany Isselhardt

1906 College Heights Blvd #11092

Bowling Green, KY 42101



Frequently Asked Questions

(1) What if I am unable to donate $25?

You can still participate! Every donation to this campaign – no matter how big or small – helps toward our goal. Consider being an Advocate, and, by sharing your unique link, you can adopt an item through the power of group giving. For instructions, click here.

(2) How will you use the money?

All money raised will be used for collections care and conservation for the Coffey mask collection.

(3) What happens if you reach your goal?

Once all 132 available masks are adopted, additional donations beyond $3,300 will be added to our Collections Fund to provide conservation care for our Folk Art collection, which will undergo extensive cataloging and digitization over the next three years. Those contributing after we reach our goal will be granted an adoption in our Folk Art collection (determined by the Museum), which includes the works of Kentucky folk artists such as Lestel and Ollie Childress and Willie Massey. 

(4) How can I learn more about what you’re doing?

Download our latest Annual Report on all the amazing things we do with our campus and community here: https://www.wku.edu/kentuckymuseum/about.php


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