At the ripe old age of 81, the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville has finally moved into a place of its own. After stints in the War Memorial Building and the James K. Polk Center, the state museum’s large collection of artifacts and historically significant items from across Tennessee are now on display in a brand-new, $160 million building that overlooks Bicentennial Mall.

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Visitors at the new Tennessee State Museum, Nashville. Photo by: Trisha Ping

"We have a history that maybe outpunches our weight class in what we've done for this country," said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam at the museum’s opening ceremony on 4 October.

The new Tennessee State Museum aims to give visitors the full scope of that history through six modern galleries, many with multimedia, interactive exhibits. Visitors will learn about Tennessee’s geological beginnings and the numerous Native American tribes who originally settled in the region, including the Cherokee, Chiaha and Chickasaw nations. A large covered wagon is one of many artifacts from the early days of the state when European settlers laid claim to the land.

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Covered wagon at the Tennessee State Museum. Photo by: Trisha Ping

There are also several exhibits featuring personal items that belonged to the two presidents who hailed from Tennessee: James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson, including the hat the latter wore to his inauguration in 1829. The museum delves into the dark side of this presidential legacy as well, spending considerable space on Jackson’s role in the ‘resettlement’ of Native Americans thanks to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the suffering of thousands on the Trail of Tears. Of course, Tennessee’s musical heritage gets a lot of attention as well: the modern ‘Tennessee Transforms’ gallery contains info on artists like Kitty Wells and Johnny Cash.

A second-floor terrace has striking views of the State Capitol building downtown. On the ground floor, a colorful children’s gallery aimed at ages 3-8 is full of hands-on ways to learn about Tennessee, such as a giant map of the state and a fossil-hunting station.

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Tennessee's musical heritage gets a lot of attention at the museum. Photo by: Trisha Ping

Admission to the museum is free, and it’s open from 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday (to 8pm on Thursday) and 1-5pm on Sunday.

From DE Trisha Ping – images here

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