For roughly a decade, the museum has been inviting curious rockers and the occasional roller to take a stroll through a musically guided journey through time. What started as an exhibit at the Smithsonian quickly took on a life of its own, developing into an independent museum commemorating the hoots and hollers of a genre. The historical galleries begin at the literal grassroots of the movement, chronicling the field music sung by rural agricultural workers. The galleries continue through the seventies, where a great deal of soul came into the mix and things really started to take off. In between, learn about the iconic label Sun Records, tips on growing a gnarly rock-n-soul beard, and how the music influenced an entire generation during the civil rights revolution.
As the oldest fine-arts museum in Tennessee, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art schools whippersnapper galleries with breathtaking batches of permanent visual works, as well as traveling showcases from around the globe. With a dual membership, a husband/wife, brother/sister, or Tango/Cash team can delve into the museum’s permanent collection— featuring a potpourri of pieces from artists including Renoir and renowned modernist Nancy Graves—as well as rotating exhibitions that highlight niche fields and master creators. The bounty of membership benefits also includes discounts at the museum store and Brushmark Restaurant, sending art apostles away with full minds, bellies, and shopping bags.
Successful carriage maker Amos Woodruff began construction on his Memphis home in 1870, designing the property in French Victorian style with a mansard roof and cypress woodwork and flooring. A year later, the mansion hosted the wedding of Amos's daughter, Mollie, marking the first public event and first of countless weddings to be held on the property. Cotton factor Noland Fontaine owned the dwelling after Amos; following the death of Noland and his wife, the home became an art school and then a vacant building until the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities acquired the space in 1961.
Nestled among magnolia trees, the restored mansion still shelters handwritten autographs and memories of the craftsmen who helped erect the building. Just as it did for Mollie Woodruff, the property also continues to host weddings and special events with a front lawn that accommodates up to 250 visitors. A collection of more than 1,000 pieces of Victorian-era fashion, such as wedding gowns, undergarments, overgarments, and stiletto horseshoes, can be found in the home. The clothing display changes several times throughout the year along with the museum's rotating exhibitions.
In the pre-computer age, wagons and trucks loaded with cotton samples once flooded Front Street, where cotton traders graded, bought, sold, and shipped their wares on the floor of the private Memphis Cotton Exchange. Formerly off-limits to everyone but members and their guests, the restored 3,000-square-foot room—adorned with ornate architectural flourishes from 1924 and a 30-foot ceiling—opened to the public as The Cotton Museum in 2006. Through documentary films and exhibits, the institution traces the history of the exchange and the impact of cotton on culture and society. The museum's oral-history project collects testimonials from merchants, mill workers, and sharecroppers, and its hall of fame honors innovative industry leaders who turned to cotton after unsuccessful attempts at lassoing clouds. Outside, a 30-minute self-guided walking tour highlights nine historical stops around Front Street, whereas the Exploration Hall's interactive indoor exhibit, The Changing World of Cotton, describes industry advances in mechanization and environmental sustainability.
The Fire Museum of Memphis uses a combination of interactive exhibits, artifacts, restorations, and multimedia to illustrate Memphis's history of fire damage and to honor those who dedicate their lives to fighting fires. Built inside the refurbished Fire Engine House No. 1, the museum itself is a rich piece of history. The Memorial Wall's larger-than-life sculptures are a riveting tribute to the heroes who fell in the line of duty, and a collection of prints and portraits honors the 12 brave men who made up the first class of African-American firefighters in 1955. Alongside a bevy of antiques from past eras of fire fighting, the horse-drawn E.H. Crump Steamer, named after the late mayor, will evoke a simpler time—before motor-technologies subjugated our equestrian allies to achieving glory primarily as silly-named racing horses.