The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, located on legendary Highway 61 in Memphis, Tennessee, inside the FedExForum Complex, gives visitors a comprehensive overview of rock and soul music from the 1930s through the 1970s in Memphis and its influence internationally.

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The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum opened on April 29th, 2000 and has since welcomed in over 200,000 visitors from around the globe. Founded by the Smithsonian Institution and National Museum of American History in 1996, the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum was the first exhibition to be developed by the Smithsonian in collaboration with another institution.

The idea for the collaboration came about in 1990 when the NMAH pursued an idea to develop a traveling exhibition about the development and history of American music with roots in Memphis. The exhibition would feature work songs, blues, gospel, and the origins of country music, urban sounds of the 1930’s and 40’s, jazz, and soul music. The funding for the traveling exhibition never came to fruition; however, a group of dedicated volunteers raised the necessary funds to acquire artifacts and do the research along with completing construction of a museum.

In 2004, the museum found a permanent home inside the FedExFOrum Complex, a premier sports and entertainment venue in Memphis at the corner of “The Blues Highway”, Highway 61 and Beale Street. The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum is open daily from 10am-7pm with special closures listed online.

Permanent Galleries

The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum features 7 permanent galleries that take visitors through the last century of music history in America, touring the roots of rock and soul music with roots in Memphis Tennessee.

Rural Culture- This gallery focuses on backwater communities of the Mississippi Delta where hard work and segregation were a part of everyday life. Deep religious faith could be found here where gospel music rang from the fields that many music icons worked their hands in before there were studios. Visitors can see what life was really life for some of the poorest people in the region.

Rural Music- The origins of blues, country, and gospel music that grew from the delta and started a revolution in the music industry can be experienced in this gallery. Battery powered radios, Victrola’s, and record players are also popular items to be seen here.

Coming to Memphis- River City attracted many different types of people. This gallery explores the merging of sharecroppers, construction workers, millers, doctors, bankers, and merchants. Also, the history of segregation and how music blurred the color barriers.

Sun Records & Youth Culture- This gallery was made possible through the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation and features exhibits related to Sun Records, a recording company that recorded blues and rock n roll legends such as BB King, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley when they were in the early stages of their careers. There are also exhibits that explore how rock n roll influence youth and pop culture in the mid-20th century.

Soul Music- Soul music labels are the highlight of this exhibit which also focuses on the black community and some of its stars. Exhibits that explore African American cultural identity through soul music and the social changes of the 1960’s are also found here.

Social Changes- This gallery focuses on the social changes of the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis with exhibits that tell the history of Martin Luther King Jr. and how music played a part in the cultural revolution in Memphis.

Bravo Gallery- This gallery sprung from a donation from the First Tennessee Foundation and highlight the accomplishments of performers and producers from Memphis that make great contributions to civil rights that also involved the music industry.

Educational Opportunities

The Memphis Rock n Soul Museum was created by the Smithsonian Institute to be an educational experience in itself as an exploration and historical lesson in the makings of rock and soul music in America over the last century. The Smithsonian also developed the Sound Education Program for educators with classes in grades k-12. This 72-page curriculum guide breaks down various lesson plans by grade level that address origins of music, racial and economic barriers in Memphis, and its influence on world culture and politics. Some of the programs offered are:

· Creating Music- Elementary Age

· Give That Group a Grammy- Grade 5-12

· Musical Picture Book- Grade 3-8

· The Themes of These Tunes- Grade 6-12

· Musical Basketball- Grade k-5

· Tonight’s Top Story-Celebrating Black History- Grades 6-12

School groups are welcome to tour the Memphis Rock n Soul Museum for a more in depth educational experience. Field trip rates can be addressed by contacting the museum directly.

191 Beale Street, Suite 100, Memphis Tennessee, 38103, website, Phone: 901-205-2533

Back to: Memphis, Tennessee

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