Tennessee State Museum receives prestigious national recognition

Helen Turner of Helen’s Bar-B-Q, featured in the award-winning Tennessee State Museum exhibit, Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food, that ran from August 9, 2019 – February 2, 2020.

The Tennessee State Museum has received prestigious recognition from two major national museum organizations. The Museum has been re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition signifying excellence afforded the nation’s museums. In addition, the Museum is a recipient of an Award of Excellence from The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for its 2019-20 exhibition, Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 75th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

“Recognition like this on the national level is an achievement that the Museum and the people of Tennessee can be extremely proud of,” said Ashley Howell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum. “It indicates that we are operating at the highest level in our service to our community and visitors, and in the presentation of our exhibitions and programs. The museum continues to serve through digital programming during our current closure.”

Originally accredited in 2003, the Tennessee State Museum’s re-accreditation comes more than a year-and-a-half after the Museum opened in its new location at Rosa L. Parks Blvd and Jefferson St, at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville. From October, 2018 through February, 2020, some 275,439 visitors came to the Museum and Military Branch of the Museum, including 56,257 students and adults through field trips and group tours. In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the Museum opened and closed four temporary exhibitions in that time, including Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food. It is readying its latest, Ratified! Tennessee Women and the Right to Vote, for when the Museum reopens to the public. Complementing its exhibitions, it has hosted dozens of events, lectures, panel discussions and film screenings. Through its statewide education outreach, the Museum offers schools and cultural organizations throughout the state access to its Traveling Trunks program and traveling exhibitions. In its first year in its new location, 55,307 students were served through the Traveling Trunks program.

AAM Accreditation brings national recognition to a museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement. Developed and sustained by museum professionals for over 45 years, the Alliance’s museum accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, over 1070 are currently accredited. The Tennessee State Museum is one of only 17 museums accredited in Tennessee. Let’s Eat! Origins and Evolutions of Tennessee Food ran from August 9, 2019 – February 2, 2020. Curated by the Museum’s Rob DeHart, who recently received a Merit Award from the Tennessee Historical Commission for his work on the exhibition, it explored the rich and diverse history of Tennessee’s food. In 4,000 square feet, the exhibition traced the state’s food traditions from its Southeastern Indian origins to the influence of West African and West European cultural groups to the contribution of more recent immigrants and contemporary food festival celebrations. Stories were told though artifacts from the Museum’s collection, digital storytelling, graphics, location photography and generous programming.

This year, AASLH conferred fifty-seven national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. Initiated in 1945, The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena.