Meeting Memphis’ Past at its Many Museums

Memphis Museums | OneTravel, photo: fickr, Joseph Lee Novak

 

From an over the top icon’s mansion to the sober motel balcony where the leader of the civil rights movement fell, Memphis is steeped in history. Perched along the Mississippi River and just a stone’s throw away from the border with Arkansas, travelers often overlook this city, myself included. After passing through Memphis several times this year on road trips across the South, I kept finding even more reasons I should have planned for a few more days with Memphis. Part of the appeal of this Tennessee city comes through its many different museum sites, where a great deal of American history was made.

 

National Civil Rights Museum: From the outside, the National Civil Rights Museum looks like a motel trapped in time. The museum finds a home in one of America’s most chilling spaces, the old Lorraine Motel. It was here in 1968 that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room. It would later be turned into a gripping memorial to the civil rights movement. Through placards and displays, the museum chronicles the struggle of African Americans from the time of slavery to present day. Exhibits bring to life monumental settings in the American civil rights movement including a Montgomery, Alabama public bus replica like that Rosa Parks took her stand on and the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter.

http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/

 

Graceland: The rock’n’roll legend Elvis Presley surely knew how to live well. The biggest attraction in Memphis is easily Graceland, the star’s former home. In fact, Graceland is the second most visited home in America after the White House. Right up there with the home of the leader of the United States, Elvis’ mansion presents several museum spaces to tour. Aside from a tour of where Elvis lived, you can also take in the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum, home to the 1955 pink Cadillac and two of his personal jets. Graceland is also the final resting place of the actor, musician and personality.

http://www.elvis.com/graceland/

 

Sun Studios: If you have an interest in music history, chances are you have heard of Sun Studios, the supposed birthplace of rock’n’roll. Owner and recording engineer Sam Phillips would first record Elvis Presley in the studio space in the early 1950’s. Artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins also recorded their sounds at Sun Studios in Memphis. You can tour arguably the most famous recording studio in America, where B.B. King and Johnny Cash crooned. At night it still serves as a recording studio.

http://www.sunstudio.com/

 

Pink Palace Museum: While it sounds like another Elvis Presley pilgrimage site, the Pink Palace Museum is actually a mansion for those interested in seeing grocery store history. Clarence Saunders built the pink marble mansion after World War II. While the grocery store magnate would never see what it would became, no doubt he would be proud. The Pink Palace Museum contains a replica of the first self-service grocery store in the country, Saunders’ Piggly Wiggly. Aside from showcasing the grocery store revolution, the museum oddly couples as a natural history museum with dinosaur and fossil exhibits.

http://www.memphismuseums.org/museum-overview/

 

What’s your favorite museum space in Memphis?

 

 

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Photo: Joseph Lee Novak

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