New Tennessee State Museum opens

Dr. Darwin Mason, Jr., far left, principal of John Early Museum Magnet Middle School, and his students pose for a photo with Senator Ferrell Haile, left to right, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senator Lamar Alexander, First Lady Crissy Haslam and Governor Bill Haslam, the Museum’s Ashely Howell, Tom Smith and Lois Riggins- Ezzell, as well Lt. Governor Ramsey during the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the the Tennessee State Museum, Thursday, October 4th, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Nathan Morgan)

The new Tennessee State Museum at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park opened its doors to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony, comments by dignitaries and Museum officials, performances by area musicians and the participation of local schoolchildren on Thursday, October 4, 2018. The new museum is expected to host more than 220,000 visitors annually, adding to the growing menu of memorable and educational opportunities Tennessee has to offer.

Among the dignitaries, Gov. Bill Haslam was joined by Tom Smith, chairman of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission; Drew Holcomb, singer-songwriter; students from the John Early Museum Magnet Middle School; the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands; U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander; and Ashley Howell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum.

“Today, we open our doors, and we open our minds.” said Howell. “We open our minds to learn more about those who lived, and served and died; to learn more about creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance that shapes our history, art and culture. To the people of Tennessee, this is your Museum and these are your stories, and we can’t wait to welcome you all today and for the many years to come.”

The Museum is comprised of six permanent exhibitions, as reported in the September 28 edition of the PRIDE. There are six temporary galleries highlighting the work of Red Grooms, Tennessee’s Musical Heritage and WWI, among others, a Children’s Gallery, a Digital Learning Center, and more.

“We have all got a story” said Howell. “At the new Tennessee State Museum, we present those stories through exhibitions, programs, living history, and more. For example, in Forging a Nation gallery, we tell the story of Sally Thomas,” said Howell. “She was born an enslaved person in 1787. By 30, Sally and her young sons moved with their owner to Nashville. There, not far from here, on the corner of Deaderick St. and Cherry, what is now 4th Ave. Sally was allowed to set up a laundry business and keep part of her earnings. With her meager earnings, Sally had one singular goal – to see her sons live as free men. She succeeded in seeing two of her sons freed. And with the help of a local attorney, Sally Thomas paid for her son’s freedom with the proceeds of her laundry. We tell her story.”

A new nickname for Nashville was heard around last weekend’s First Bank First Saturday Art Crawl: “Museum City USA.” With the new State Museum, the rebranding of the Frist Art Museum, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and next year’s opening of the National Museum of African American Music, among others, Nashville really might be considered a “Museum City USA.”
The Tennessee State Museum can be characterized as the “Smithsonian of Tennessee,” based on its mission to collect, preserve, and interpret the material culture of Tennessee and Tennesseans.

The Museum’s collection contains a representation of Tennessee, its land and its people, from Prehistoric times to present day. Significant artifacts related to the state’s history have been acquired over several decades which include art, furniture, textiles, and photographs produced by Tennesseans.

The Tennessee State Museum to the public and open Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Closed Monday; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. For more information about the new Tennessee State Museum, visit

Tennessee State Museum announces permanent and temporary exhibitions for October opening