Museums in Memphis

Rhodes students and faculty alike enjoy exploring the rich history and culture that Memphis has to offer. Whether you’re on a date, in a class, or looking to get away from campus, museums are the perfect places to get lost in. Here are our top five museum picks.

By Aaron Banks ‘15

National Civil Rights Museum: Located at the site of the infamous Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the National Civil Rights Museum has attracted more than 3 million visitors since it opened in 1991. The museum houses exhibitions chronicling the American Civil Rights struggle, including all of the police and evidence files on the assassination of Dr. King.

Brooks Museum of Art: The Brooks Museum of Art is conveniently located in Overton Park, only a short walk from campus. It is a nationally recognized art museum with one of the largest collections of art in the south. The museum has exhibitions from both nationally recognized artists and locals just starting their career. The museum is also open late every Thursday. These late evenings offer a range of events from foreign films to tango dancing to a cat video festival this Valentine’s Day.

Pink Palace Museum: In 1922, Clarence Saunders, the founder of Piggly Wiggly, began work on his mansion. Unfortunately, he would lose all of his money in the stock exchange the following year. His unfinished home was seized by creditors and donated to the City of Memphis as a museum. By this time, Memphians had nicknamed the house “The Pink Palace,” and the name stuck. Opened in 1930 as a museum, Saunders’ mansion has been expanded to house exhibits on the natural and cultural history of Memphis, several travelling exhibits and an IMAX theater.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music: Located in an old movie theater, Stax Records grew from a small record store in 1959 into a recording studio for soul legends such as Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding. With the record label long gone, the building now hosts a museum dedicated to American soul music as a whole, not just those who recorded at Stax. Inside one will find exhibits varying from an old gospel church from Mississippi to Isaac Hayes’ “completely restored, peacock blue, gold-trimmed, fur-lined, 1972 Cadillac El Dorado.”

Graceland: Open to visitors since 1982, the final home of Elvis Presley attracts more than a half million visitors annually. Graceland now acts as a museum with rooms depicting the life of Presley and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. The tour includes most of the first floor of the mansion, along with Presley’s trophy room, his car collection and a look inside his two custom jets. For those who wish to have the full Elvis experience, the Heartbreak Hotel is just across the street from Graceland.