The Tennessee State Museum is one of the largest museums in the South that focuses on the history of the South, which includes the American Indians that once made the South their home all the way up through the Civil War and beyond. The focus of the Tennessee State Museum is of course on the state of Tennessee and how it played a part in this history.
The Tennessee State Museum features a lot of historical artifacts on display such as paintings, firearms, quilts, furniture and Indian arrowheads. There also some unique items that you will not find in any other history museums, such as Davy Crockett’s powder horn, a rare life size painting of President Andrew Jackson and the Medal of Honor from World War I which belonged to Alvin York.
The Tennessee State Museum can trace its roots back to 1817 when artist Ralph E.W. Earl opened a museum in the town square in Nashville with his premier work being the aforementioned life size painting of President Andrew Jackson, who was just a general at that time. That exact painting is actually still an integral part of the permanent exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. In 1937, it was commissioned as a World War I mementoes collection, and grew to house various items relative to Tennessee history.
Currently the permanent collection consists of six different exhibits. They are: The First Tennesseans, The Frontier, The Age of Jackson, Antebellum, The Civil War and Reconstruction and The New South. The First Tennesseans focuses on Indian cultures that existed in Tennessee and includes artifacts from the Paleolithic, Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian periods. Items of note are bones of a 10,000 year old mastodon and a shaman’s medicine tube. The Frontier exhibit includes Daniel Boone’s musket, armor and weapons from Spanish conquistadors, a Conestoga wagon from 1800, a grist mill, a frontier cabin, a sword from the Revolutionary War and moccasins that were given to James Roberson by the Chickasaw Indians. The Age of Jackson exhibit showcases Andrew Jackson’s presidential inaugural hat, a check from the Republic of Texas issued to Davy Crockett’s estate after his death at the Alamo and a War of 1812 uniform. The Antebellum collection features a full scale model of Federal-style architecture present in the Nashville-area during 1840 to 1860. There is also a display of African American life at that time. The Civil War and Reconstruction collection shows off a Civil War cannon, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s revolver, and more. And The New South part of the museum focuses on the changes in Tennessee as a result of the post Civil War industrial revolution. The Tennessee Centennial items, women’s suffrage and Prohibition are all items of interest in this exhibit.
The Tennessee State Museum also features various traveling exhibits. In the past such notable exhibits as the Anne Frank exhibit have been at the Tennessee State Museum. An upcoming exhibit for Summer and Fall of 2007 is the Marty Stuart music memorabilia collection.
The Tennessee State Museum is located in downtown Nashville on the corners of Fifth and Deaderick. It is directly across from the State Capitol building and Legislative Plaza. It also shares its home with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, or TPAC as it is widely known, taking up 3 floors of the building. It covers about 120,000 square feet, with over half of it being dedicated to the exhibits.
Admission to the museum is always free, however some traveling exhibits do have an admission fee. The Tennessee State Museum is closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is no designated parking for the museum. During the week, visitors must park in pay lots or use metered parking. But on weekends, visitors can park across the street in the state employee parking for free. Also metered spots are free after 6 p.m. on weekdays, all day Sunday and after noon on Saturdays.