Throughout his life, Muhammad Ali remained a fighter in and out of the ring. Although he has passed, his incredible legacy remains. One Louisville institution is helping to shine a spotlight on what the boxer and humanitarian meant to Kentucky, our nation’s history and the world while helping to create a brighter future.
The Muhammad Ali Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center, is dedicated to Louisville native Muhammad Ali. A combination of tradition and modernity, the museum includes historical exhibits and timelines of the famous boxer, and offers a variety of interactive and collaborative programs, as well as youth and global education.
Jeanie Kahnke, Muhammad Ali Center’s Senior Director of Public Relations and External Affairs, discussed the Center as a whole, focusing on what it means to preserve Muhammad’s legacy.
“The Center is much more than a museum,” Kahnke told us. “It is two and a half levels of award-winning exhibits that create a historical context as well as a Muhammad Ali context. Way back when we were designing the exhibits, we felt it was important to create something that was different than most museums – something that really helped visitors feel like they were walking next to Muhammad and what it was like in the ‘60s.”
There are six core principles that the Center not only adheres by, but carries out daily through every exhibit, event and program that the Center offers. Brought about by Muhammad’s own characteristics; confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality, these key principles all lie proudly at the forefront of the Center.
“We always have to be relevant and engaging to young people by updating the exhibits and adhering to the desire for instant information,” Kahnke stated.
Kahnke tells us the Center is a place for visitors of all generations to come and gain more knowledge on who Muhammad was and what he did, both as a cultural icon and athlete.
“Muhammad always took care of his body,” Kahnke stated. “Visitors can learn how he trained, that he got enough sleep and ate healthy. There is a message there to people of all ages to take care of themselves.”
When visiting, guests can expect exhibits that highlight Muhammad’s global impact on the world as well as his local roots, including a timeline of his Kentucky upbringing and career as an amateur boxer. Kahnke says there is a lot of interactivity, a lot of self-discovery and all-around inspiration in every corner of the space.
“Muhammad was so proud of his home state until the very end,” Kahnke remarked. “He wanted his remains to forever be here, so his Kentucky roots are sprinkled throughout the exhibits as that is where he came from. He was a Kentucky Golden Glove champion always supported by local businessmen.”
There are a variety of events held at the Center, ranging from family reunions and weddings to sales meetings. The Center has acquired many partnerships over the years, presents a myriad of youth programming and field trips, and even allows journalists to conduct research onsite.
More on the action side of things, there is a very popular exhibit for kids of all ages called “Train with Ali.” “Train with Ali” is a recreation of Muhammad Ali’s Deer Lake, Pennsylvania Training Camp. Here, at this truly fun exhibit, visitors can shadow box, hit the heavy bag and learn the techniques of the sport from champion boxer, Laila Ali.
Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad and this month’s cover girl, is the featured speaker at the Go Red Luncheon this year held at the Lexington Center on Friday, November 17th. She is following in the footsteps of her father using her athletic fame for social justice issues.
November is an exciting month for the Center, as the 19th marks its 12 year anniversary. Also going on this month is the “Daughters of Greatness” breakfast series, featuring Alice Houston on November 10, where she will share her story of social philanthropy and pursuits of justice with the local community.
“I do believe since Muhammad has passed, that there has been renewed and expanded interest in his legacy,” Kahnke told us. “And it began here in Kentucky. The Muhammad Ali Center is the only museum in the world whose sole mission is to preserve his legacy.” •