Tennessee's museums are an eclectic mix of history and special interest. Each of the most popular museums could be seen as representative of the state's heritage and the areas for which it is most well-known. Tennessee's musical fame is greatly celebrated at several of the institutions, ranging from museums that commemorate one particular artist to those that memorialize the state's famed dedication to the genre of country music. Other museums honor the state's political history, archiving the lives of famous historical figures and notable political movements. Still others pay tribute to the more troubled areas of the state's past, providing education and discussion around difficult topics such as racial inequality. Due to Tennessee's involvement in the Civil War, many of its most popular historical museums are based around that time period. Historical houses are among some of the most visited attractions in the state. Several of these museums feature immersive and interactive exhibits, giving visitors a chance to be entertained as well as educated.
National Civil Rights Museum
This museum commemorates the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, including its earlier origins in resistance to slavery in America. It is made up of several buildings, including the Lorraine Motel. This motel is in fact the same location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The museum focuses on interactive exhibits, intending to both educate the public and facilitate discussions on the issues of racism. To this end, there are often guest speakers and live events held at the museum.
Lotz House Museum
The Lotz House is a historical home, kept in its original state in order to allow visitors to experience the past in an immersive way. The house's location in the middle of Franklin makes it particularly appropriate as a record of the Civil War era, as the famous Battle of Franklin occurred in the immediate area. There are even marks of the battle left on the wooden floors of the house itself. As the home is furnished with era-appropriate art and furniture, it also serves as an excellent exhibition of antiques.
Titanic Museum Attraction
This special interest museum in Pigeon Forge is a fascinating recreation of the Titanic ship which famously sank in 1912. The attraction has been designed to provide an interactive experience for visitors. Each visitor is given the title of “passenger” on the Titanic, complete with a ticket for the voyage. Areas of the original ship have been built to appear as they would have on the original, complete with artifacts recovered from the wreck itself. The exhibits and activities also cover the actual sinking of the vessel. A sloped section of the deck allows guests to experience the physical difficulties of escaping the ship. Guests have a chance to put their hands into 28 degree Fahrenheit water, to feel what the conditions were like on the night of the accident. There is even a real iceberg that guests can touch.
Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is situated in Nashville and celebrates Tennessee's famous association with country music. The Hall of Fame lauds musicians of both the past and present, and features an ongoing series of artists in residence. The museum holds exhibitions based on the lives of past musicians, often displaying artifacts relevant to their careers as well as archived recordings, videos and photographs. Given the nature of the museum, many of the exhibits and events are performance-based, often taking the form of concerts and interviews. The activities on offer also reflect the artistry that is exhibited in the museum itself, such as songwriting classes. The museum also includes access to the famous RCA Studio B, which guests are able to purchase tickets to visit.
Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
This historic mansion was the home of President Andrew Jackson, named the “hermitage” for its peaceful surroundings. The house has been restored to the state it would have been in during Jackson's residency, complete with antique furnishings. The grounds, covering over one and a half square miles, include many other historical buildings such as a church, farm buildings and slave sites. The gardens have also been restored, and include the tomb of Jackson's wife, Rachel. These surroundings, as well as re-enactments such as the regularly scheduled “duel” add to the immersive quality of a visitor's experience
Johnny Cash Museum
This museum honors the legendary musician, Johnny Cash. It includes memorabilia from the life of Cash, including photographs, stage costumes and his previously owned instruments. There are also more personal artifacts, including an old school report card and items kept from his famous prison recordings. The exhibits include interactive pieces such as filmed performances. There are also touch screens and headphones integrated into the displays to aid the visitor’s experience. Catering to Cash’s greatest fans, the museum provides an extended tour to celebrate his music. The tour includes a live performance from one of the Cash family members, featuring the artist’s music and first-hand stories about his life. The museum is ranked among the most popular in the country.