The new Tennessee State Museum at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park opened its doors to the public today with a ribbon cutting ceremony, comments by dignitaries and Museum officials, performances by area musicians and the participation of local schoolchildren.
“A lot of work has gone into this project, and I’m pleased to say that it is on time and under budget,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Our goal was to build a museum that would 100 years from now reflect something that Tennesseans will be proud of and still be a vital part of Bicentennial Mall. I believe we’ve exceeded that goal with a space to showcase the rich history of our state and provide a memorable experience to visitors of all ages. This is an exciting day for Tennessee.”
The governor was joined by Tom Smith, chairman of the Douglas Henry State Museum Commission; Ashley Howell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum; Drew Holcomb, singer-songwriter; students from the John Early Museum Magnet Middle School; the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands; and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, who delivered the keynote address.
The senator was governor when the Museum opened in the James K. Polk building in 1981.
“Forty years ago, I walked across Tennessee in my campaign for governor, 1,022 miles from Maryville to Mountain City to Memphis. My walk took six months,” Senator Alexander said. “Today, in this magnificent new Tennessee State Museum you can walk across the state in 30 minutes and get to know the state pretty well. Even a short walk in the Children’s Gallery will give you a taste of the treasures assembled in this Museum or take a different kind of walk through the ‘Tennessee Time Tunnel from prehistoric days until today.
“Our children need to learn American history and Tennessee history, so they can grow up knowing what it means to be an American and a Tennessean. Learning history helps to understand what is happening today and helps to navigate tomorrow.”
The Museum is comprised of six permanent exhibitions ranging from First Peoples beginning in 13,000 BCE to Present Day, 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. It is free to the public and open until 8 p.m. on its opening day. Hours for the rest of opening weekend are Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. CDT; Sunday, 1-5:00 p.m. CDT; and Monday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. CDT.
“Today, we open our doors, and we open our minds.” said Ms. 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.