The Tennessee State Museum features six permanent exhibitions that tell a variety of stories from the First Peoples to the Present Day.
Natural History introduces visitors to the origins of Tennessee’s amazing landscapes as well as its diverse animal and plant life, while also using fossils to show examples of life from long ago.
First Peoples (13,000 BCE to 1760 CE) tells the story of how the First Peoples of Tennessee lived, about their culture, and how they defended their homelands against the European encroachment.
Forging a Nation (1760 to 1860) delves into the stories of Southeastern Indians and Overmountain People, enslaved and free African Americans, the Creek War and War of 1812, Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, President Polk, westward expansion, and more.
In The Civil War and Reconstruction (1860 to 1870), visitors will learn how Tennesseans determined to secede from the Union and how the state remained divided on the issue throughout the war. Major battles and personalities are featured, including the experiences of common soldiers. African Americans are highlighted as they seek their own freedom, and some eventually fight for the Union. Also examined is how Tennesseans struggled to find a place in a world without slavery during the era of Reconstruction.
Following Reconstruction, Change and Challenge (1870 to 1945) explores how Tennesseans found ways forward through economic upheavals, social changes, and international conflicts. Visitors will learn how Tennessee women fought for the right to vote. Visitors will also examine how Tennesseans shared the nation’s challenges in World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, and see artifacts such as World War I hero Alvin C. York’s Medal of Honor.
Exhibits in the most contemporary permanent gallery, Tennessee Transforms (1945 to Present), highlight the impacts of post-war innovations on Tennesseans, the struggle of African-Americans to share in the new prosperity, the development of Tennessee’s music industries and their importance in shaping how outsiders view Tennessee, and how today’s Tennessee has emerged as a reflection of these dynamics.
The Tennessee Time Tunnel serves as the backbone for the entire permanent gallery experience, combining content-rich artifacts, exhibits and stories from our permanent collection with engaging media and thought-provoking interactives for a multi-layered experience.