State leaders break ground on new Tennessee State Museum

Last updated on July 21st, 2016 at 05:51 pm

TSM exterior 0124final

Rendering of the Tennessee State Museum slated to open in in 2018.

Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Rep. Steve McDaniel, chairman of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, and Jon Meacham, Pulitzer prize winner and New York Times bestselling author, were on hand to break ground on the new Tennessee State Museum.

The project represents a bold vision – part museum, part virtual reality and part time machine.

“What we’re planning to accomplish with a new state museum is a 100-year project — in terms of both quality and stature, and I want to thank the General Assembly for its partnership and commitment to make this investment,” Haslam said. “We’re taking an innovative, hybrid approach to the museum’s design that will be an extraordinary experience and will complement the other cultural and entertainment opportunities Tennessee has to offer.

“Tennessee’s history has played an important part in our country’s history, and we have a really interesting and dynamic story to tell.”

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission, the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, the Nashville mayor’s office and metro council also attended the groundbreaking event, which was held at the site of the new museum located at the corner of Rosa L. Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street in downtown Nashville.

Last year, the governor proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $120 million in the FY-2015-16 budget to build a new home for the Tennessee State Museum on the Bicentennial Mall to maximize the state’s rich history by creating a state-of-the-art educational asset and tourist attraction for the state. The governor also announced that $40 million would be raised in private funds for the project.

The Tennessee State Museum was established by statute in 1937 “to bring together the various collections of articles, specimens, and relics now owned by the State under one divisional head,” and “to provide for a transfer of exhibits wherever they may be.”

Today, the Tennessee State Museum is housed in the James K. Polk building in downtown Nashville, where it has been for nearly 35 years.

A 137,000 square foot facility will be built on the northwest corner of the Bicentennial Mall at the corner of Rosa L. Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street. It is being designed to bring history to life and allow visitors to become part of the state’s history. Showcasing one-of-a-kind artifacts, historical documents and art, the museum will tell Tennessee’s story in a new, interactive and engaging way.

A “Tennessee Time Tunnel” will serve as the backbone feature of the museum in providing a chronological and experiential journey through Tennessee’s history.

The new Tennessee State Museum is scheduled to open in 2018.