The McClung Museum is located at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and started out in the Agricultural Building in 1880. Agriculture was the theme of the museum with a variety of tractors, farm equipment, farm product specimens and even soil samples from around Tennessee.

In 1934 the university accepted a large collection with over 5,000 pieces of art and photographs. The Louis B. and Eleanor Deane Swan Audigier Collection of Art and Library of Art Appreciation was featured in The Audigier Art Gallery which was specifically created in the Hoskins Graduate Library for the collection. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture



In 1935, the Hesler Biology building also started showcasing birds, butterflies, alligators and other zoological specimens in one of the upper rooms. Around the same time, the Department of Anthropology was created so that proper excavations of artifacts could be performed by the University after concerns from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Archeologist would now study, preserve and restore much of the natural history throughout the state. Within just a few years, an official archaeological laboratory was in operation at UT and a curator was hired from Chicago to run the lab.

Thomas Lewis, a supervisor of excavations, began to push the university to create a proper museum to house the thousands of artifacts that their teams had collected in the first few years. There were so many “mini museums” throughout campus, the collections would be better served in one museum where people from all over the state could come and enjoy them. Finally, In the fall of 1954, Lewis was appointed as head chair of a committee to plan the university museum.

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A few appropriations for the museum fell through until 1955 when a couple, Judge John W. Green and his wife Ellen McClung has willed a great deal of money to the building of a Natural History building at the University. In 1957, the money became available to the committee with the specific rule that the museum be called Frank H. McClung Museum, in memorial of Eleanor’s father. o and be made of brick or stone and be made as fireproof as possible.

Henry Hudson house was purchased in early summer of 1959 and Lewis was appointed director of the museum. The building was renovated and completed two years later. Before the opening of the museum Lewis and the Assistant director, Madeline Kneberg married and retired.

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The museum had 35.000 square feet of space and new director Alfred Guthe, enabled the Fine Arts Department to have the East Gallery to house the arts collections they had amassed. The museum had a limited opening that began in fall of 1961. Archaeologists could start using the museum for research. The museum became open to the public in late 1963 after the official dedication.

More than 1.4 million people have visited the McClung Museum. Their focus today is on education and programming with roughly 9,000 square feet dedicated to exhibition space and the same amount dedicated to storage of the various collections not on display and for research. There is also an auditorium where university classes and lectures are held. Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture



Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee Collection

McClung Museum is home to millions of artifacts that were excavated under the Tennessee Valley Authority from 1934-1982. This research base also contains the field notes, photographs, analysis and research sheets, drawings and everything else that was used in conjunction with the study of Native Americans in the middle south and along the Tennessee River.

Over 1.5 million square feet of Native American lands were excavated as well as the many reservoirs in the area, to amass this collection that has garnered international acclaim. The museum’s permanent collection contains only a sample of these investigations into the past. Access to the entire collection can be made by request by researchers.

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Arts and Culture Collections

Since the founding of the official museum in 1961, The McClung Museum has been the recipient of many gifts and made many purchases in pieces that represent natural history prints, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, maps, decorative arts, and military artifacts. Only a small number of these are on display in the permanent exhibits, but they can be viewed online and are stored in collection storage.

This collection is used mostly for university teaching by appointment and research. Just like the other collections, a formal request by a researcher must be made in advance for access to the collection. Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

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»More Collections

More Collections

Malacology Research Collection

The McClung Museum not only has archaeological and artistic material, but living specimens as well. The Paul W. Parmalee Collection has freshwater bivalves, aquatic and land gastropods, including 320 species of mussels. This collection is one of the largest in the South East with over 140,000 specimens total. Many of these species are threatened or endangered and even 18 species are considered extinct.

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Paleoethnobotanical Collection

This collection represents plant material that is excavated at archaeological sites. The Paleoethnobotanical Collection at the McClung Museum has found plant materials at 112 different sites that represent 1/5 of the states. With over 100,000 specimens of corn from the last two thousand years and 1,850 species of seeds, fruits and other plants, this collection is one of the most significant in The United States. Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

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»Permanent Exhibitions

Permanent Exhibitions

There are eight permanent exhibits that show parts of the collections that are in storage or were designed for the museum itself. Each exhibit represents an aspect of natural history throughout the world with some showcasing specimens that are native or culturally representative of the Southeast and Tennessee specifically.

Ancient Egypt: The Eternal Voice is a collection of items from Ancient Egypt that were manufactured over 2,000 years ago in most cases. There are a small number of replicas for educational purposes, but most of the artifacts visitors will see here are genuine. This exhibit also features the many different lifestyles that were represented in Egypt from the rich and royal, the divine and the people of the Nile Valley. There is an exhibit within this exhibit that focuses on mummifications and burial. Ancient amulets, magic items, coffins and real animal mummies can be seen in this unique space.

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Tennessee Freshwater Mussels is separated into three spaces in this exhibit. One space focuses on Native American usage of mussels, another on the biology of mussels and the third on the modern use of mussels such as the pearl industry. Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

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»More Permanent Exhibitions

More Permanent Exhibitions

The Civil War in Knoxville: Battle of Fort Sanders focuses on life during the civil war and the 1860s through 1870s. The role of Tennessee and the Battle of Fort Sanders has specific educational artifacts that guide visitors through the history of these events.

Human Origins: Searching for our Fossil Ancestors is all about evolution and what science has told us about the last 6 million years of the earth’s history since humanoids came into existence.

Geology and Fossil History of Tennessee is where visitors can see bones that are many millions of years old. Some of the fossils are more recent such as those of the last Ice Age. The space starts with an introduction to minerals and rocks and how fossils are made. The highlight of the exhibit includes the only dinosaur bones to be found in Tennessee and real dinosaur eggs that were sent to the Museum from China.

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The Decorative Experience has 175 pieces of art that are considered aesthetically pleasing from all over the world as far back as 2400 B.C. through the 21st century.

Archaeology and the Native Peoples of Tennessee takes visitors through the history of the Native American people in the Tennessee region. There is prehistoric art, tools and other pieces of history all included in this exhibit.

Edmontosaurus Annectens is the newest addition to the permanent collection. This dinosaur is now located in the front of the museum’s entrance. This is an outdoor replica, but real duck billed dinosaur bones and eggs are located inside. Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

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»Special Exhibitions

Special Exhibitions

The McClung as space for a few rotating special exhibits every year. These unique displays help to broaden visitor’s knowledge on many different aspect of natural history throughout the world and the history of Tennessee.

Knoxville Unearthed: Archaeology in the Heart of the Valley explores the heritage of Knoxville, Tennessee over the last 225 years.

Land, Sea and Spirit: Alaska Native Art from the 19th and 20th Centuries is a miniature exhibit that highlights key aspects of some of the most northern living Native Americans.

Life on the Roman Frontier gives visitors a peek into what daily life was like for Roman soldiers and the families that lived on the Roman Frontier all the way back to 56 BC.

Birds of Tennessee: Celebrating the Centennial of the Tennessee Ornithological Society is a display of 56 lithographs and engravings that represent birds that are native to Tennessee.

Plan your Visit

The McClung Museum features many events during the week and throughout the year for children and adults. There are lectures, a holiday shopping events in December, homeschool programs, and many family fun days. Many of these activities are free to the community. There are also many educational opportunities for university students and adult learners.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Knoxville, TN Address: 1327 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996, Phone: 865-974-2144, website Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture - Photo: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture

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Knoxville, TN: McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture