Top 12 Museums in Memphis

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As Tennessee’s largest city, Memphis offers visitors a variety of world-class museums covering topics ranging from art and music to history and civil rights.

Museum NameFocus Area
National Civil Rights MuseumCivil rights movement history
GracelandElvis Presley’s life and legacy
Slave Haven Underground Railroad MuseumUnderground Railroad and slave history
Memphis Brooks Museum of ArtArt spanning from antiquity to modern day
Rock N’ Soul MuseumEvolution of Memphis music
Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton ExchangeHistory of the cotton industry
Children’s Museum of MemphisInteractive exhibits for children
Fire Museum of MemphisFirefighting history and education
Art Museum at the University of MemphisContemporary art exhibitions
Memphis Pink Palace MuseumNatural and cultural history of Memphis
Historic Elmwood CemeteryHistoric cemetery with notable burials

Immersive exhibits profile the city’s rich heritage and culture using an array of artifacts, installations, and preservation sites. From Graceland to slave cabins – Memphis museums engage and educate through impactful galleries and profound historic spaces.

National Civil Rights Museum

Name and Location: National Civil Rights Museum located at 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103, at the former Lorraine Motel, in downtown Memphis.

Collections and Exhibits: Powerful exhibits chronicle the American civil rights movement through artifacts, films and recreated scenes spanning slavery through key events and victories that moved the nation toward greater justice and equality for all.

What to Expect: An impactful walk through history brings seminal moments to life regarding racial discrimination and nonviolent activism, honoring leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the site of his 1968 assassination.

Visitor Information: Open daily except major holidays. Timed entry tickets required. General admission $16 for adults with discounts available. Plan 2-3 hour self-guided visits.

Located at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the National Civil Rights Museum powerfully relays the story of the American Civil Rights Movement. Through expansive galleries and restored buildings, visitors can learn about slavery, Jim Crow era oppression, the Montgomery bus boycotts, and key civil rights events. Multi-media displays, collectively tell a poignant narrative of the enduring struggle for racial equality in the United States. Plan to spend a few hours taking it all in.

Graceland

Name and Location: Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion museum located at 3765 Elvis Presley Blvd. in the Whitehaven area of Memphis, TN.

Collections and Exhibits: The estate preserves and shares treasures from Elvis’ lifetime and career through exhibits in the mansion, Presley Motors Automobile Museum, Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum, Discovery Exhibits gallery and more spanning the 14 acre campus.

What to Expect: Fans take guided Graceland Mansion tours to see iconic rooms like the Jungle Room, Trophy Building displaying artifacts like gold records and flamboyant jumpsuits, the Meditation Garden gravesite and exhibits conveying Elvis’ story.

Visitor Information: Open year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas and January. Combination tickets provide access to Graceland Mansion plus Elvis attractions. Estate tours require reservations made in advance online.

As Memphis’ most iconic attraction, Graceland stands as a museum celebrating the life and legacy of musical legend Elvis Presley. Guests can tour Elvis’ 14-acre estate, glimpse his classic car collection, his original 2 aircraft, take in costume exhibits and see where the King is laid to rest. An archive of Elvis memorabilia showcases unique artifacts spanning clothing, gold records, letters and more. With audio guides narrated by John Stamos, the Graceland experience transports visitors back in time to understand Elvis’ lasting impact.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum

Name and Location: Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum at 826 N 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38107 inside the historic 1849 Burkle Estate.

Collections and Exhibits: The modest home hides cellar spaces and trap doors once used to shelter freedom seekers on dangerous journeys toward liberation aided by local abolitionists secretly defying slavery laws in the turbulent years before the Civil War erupted.

What to Expect: Museum tours spotlight first-hand experiences from the Underground Railroad era alongside facts about enslavement horrors Black Americans endured and the network of allies risking livelihoods or lives seeking to emancipate those whom history failed to protect.

Visitor Information: Guided tours run Thursday-Saturday making reservations via phone ideal. Group tours accommodated if booked in advance. Admission charged. Gift shop offers books shedding further insights on the topics explored.

Within a modest clapboard home, the Burkle Estate once secretly housed slaves making their bid for freedom along the Underground Railroad. Today the grounds form the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, profiling the harrowing experiences of runaway slaves and the network of safe houses that evolved to assist them. Museum exhibits curate artifacts while detailing escape stories and the vital role of this home. As one of the only authenticated Underground Railroad sites, this museum delivers a stirring glimpse into a powerful civil rights struggle.

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Name and Location: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art located in Overton Park at 1934 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104.

Collections and Exhibits: The Brooks’ permanent collection holds over 7,000 works spanning the ancient world to modern via pieces like the ancient Egyptian mummy “Pashed” and European old masters plus outdoor sculpture garden. Focusing on multi-cultural art from across history.

What to Expect: Visitors contemplate exquisite objects created over the centuries that testify to diverse civilizations flourishing as they wander galleries focused on genres from portraits to still lifes to landscapes and more before admiring art deco architecture.

Visitor Information: Open Wednesdays-Saturdays year-round with summer Sunday hours added. Special exhibits incur additional entry fees. General admission $10 (adult), discounted rates for seniors, students, kids under 12.

As the oldest and largest art museum in Tennessee, The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art contains an impressive permanent collection spanning internationally renowned artists from antiquity to modern day. Spanning European, Asian, and American artists – the expansive galleries profile renowned works by Monet, Renoir, Rembrandt and more. Visitors can also take in stunning traveling exhibits within the modern glass-walled building. With over 10,000 works and an outdoor sculpture garden – art enthusiasts could spend hours getting lost in the endless galleries.

Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum

Within a modest clapboard home, the Burkle Estate once secretly housed slaves making their bid for freedom along the Underground Railroad. Today the grounds form the Slavehaven Underground Railroad Museum, profiling the harrowing experiences of runaway slaves and the network of safe houses that evolved to assist them. Museum exhibits curate artifacts while detailing escape stories and the vital role of this home. As one of the only authenticated Underground Railroad sites, this museum delivers a stirring glimpse into a powerful civil rights struggle.

Rock N’ Soul Museum

Name and Location: Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum located at 191 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103 inside the FedExForum arena complex downtown.

Collections and Exhibits: Permanent and temporary exhibits chronicle Memphis music history from early blues evolution in juke joints through the soul and rock ‘n’ roll tracks recorded at historic studios like Sun and Stax via photos, instruments, costumes, videos and more artifacts.

What to Expect: Timeline exhibits and audiovisual displays engage visitors celebrating legends like Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes and local artists who created influential sounds. Interactive mix tables and more hands-on components make musical heritage accessible.

Visitor Information: Open daily, 10 AM-7 PM. Guided tours available on request or visitors can explore using provided listening devices. General admission $12 (adults) with student, senior and family discounts.

Located just off the iconic Beale Street, the Rock N’ Soul Museum traces the musical evolution of Memphis – from Gospel, to Blues, to Soul, and Rock n’ Roll. Cutting-edge exhibits profile legendary artists like Aretha Franklin and Al Green with memorabilia, interactive displays, and inclusive storytelling. Visitors can listen to original recordings, learn dance moves, and immerse themselves in the city’s musical heritage. Spanning genres and eras, the museum leaves visitors with an understanding of how Memphis profoundly shaped today’s musical landscape.

Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange

Name and Location: The Cotton Museum located inside the Memphis Cotton Exchange at 65 Union Avenue in downtown Memphis.

Collections and Exhibits: Exhibits chronicle the history of the cotton industry and its influence on the region’s culture via artifacts like a cotton gin machine alongside audiovisual components enriching perspectives on generations who planted, picked and traded a crop connecting past and present.

What to Expect: Guests learn the often-overlooked stories of cotton’s impact through compelling exhibits spanning growing methods, trade processes, textile crafts, and ties between farmers, merchants, businessmen and communities intertwined for better or worse over two centuries through an emotive plant.

Visitor Information: Open Monday-Saturday 10AM-5PM. Guided tour requests accommodated with advance booking. General admission $10 adults, reduced rates available for students, seniors 65+, teachers and kids under 12.

Within the historic Memphis Cotton Exchange building, the Cotton Museum offers an illuminating look at the industry that fueled Memphis’ initial growth as a key shipping port. Exhibits relay the planting, harvesting, ginning, grading and trading involved throughout cotton’s path from field to fabric. Authentic tools, machines, and cotton samples showcase varying crops, qualities, and end uses. Visitors leave realizing cotton’s ongoing impact as submissions rotate to cover modern production and global trade.

Children’s Museum of Memphis

Name and Location: Children’s Museum of Memphis located at 2525 Central Ave. Memphis, TN 38104 offers three floors of hands-on educational play spaces.

Collections and Exhibits: Interactive areas like an aviation exhibit, farmer’s market store, craft center and imagination playground are designed by early childhood education experts to enrich young minds while having fun through roleplaying real-world scenarios.

What to Expect: Kids construct race cars then race down spiraling garages, perform surgery on a teddy bear patient, don firefighting gear to battle a blaze, send hand-cranked spinning flowers aloft over the atrium and engage curiosity through many enriching hands-on activities.

Visitor Information: The museum hosts guests Tuesday-Sunday during school year, Mondays added in summer. Admission $15 (ages 1+), discounted for military families and after 4 PM daily. Annual memberships deliver best value.

With dozens of hands-on educational exhibits, the Children’s Museum of Memphis delivers interactive explorations focused on igniting kids’ curiosity through STEAM learning. Permanent exhibit themes like Construction, Water Works, and Imagination Forest allow kids to build structures, move water, role play careers, and experiment extensively in a safe, welcoming environment. Families will also find exhibits tailored for infants, toddlers and school-aged students – making this museum an essential go-to destination for Memphis families.

Fire Museum of Memphis

Name and Location: Fire Museum of Memphis located at 118 Adams Avenue Memphis, TN 38103 inside Fire Station No. 1 downtown.

Collections and Exhibits: Features a growing collection of vintage fire trucks and equipment documenting more than a century of Memphis firefighting milestones alongside exhibits spotlighting techniques of the trade, firefighter history plus artifacts recovered from blazes that shattered the city through generations.

What to Expect: Visitors explore the 1923 Fire Station tower and antique engines including a horse-drawn fire carriage before learning tools, training and tech saving lives daily via hands-on demos that make fiery dangers into teachable moments explaining first responder courage meeting community needs.

Visitor Information: Free self-guided tours available Tuesday-Saturday from 10AM-4PM. School/group visits welcomed with advance scheduling. Special events like the yearly fire safety fair further the nonprofit museum’s educational mission.

Located downtown in the historic Fire Station No.1, the Fire Museum of Memphis chronicles the fascinating history of firefighting throughout the city and beyond. Visitors can explore antique fire trucks and equipment while learning about historic fires and fire science advancements that have occurred since the early 1800s. Interactive opportunities also allow kids to dress up like firefighters and explore what it takes to battle blazes. An ideal outing for kids captivated by fire trucks.

Art Museum at the University of Memphis

Name and Location: University of Memphis Art Museum located inside the Communication and Fine Arts Building at 3750 Norriswood Ave, Memphis TN 38152 accessible free to all art lovers.

Collections and Exhibits: American Scene prints, French book art, rotating exhibits and other fine art collections numbering near 5,000 pieces represent diverse creative currents connecting communities through enduring beauty, human expression and visual dialog crossing boundaries to inspire.

What to Expect: Museum guests enter expanded gallery spaces allowing notable traveling exhibits by respected artists alongside strengths from established portfolios —Highlights tours available third Sundays monthly. Rotating multimedia arrests eyes while galleries engage minds.

Visitor Information: Open weekdays without charge benefiting students plus public patrons seeking a welcoming aesthetic oasis. Extended evening hours until 9PM every Wednesday. Monthly events further enrich experiences on campus beyond everyday explorations.

Run by the University of Memphis, this impressive art museum primarily exhibits contemporary art across photography, painting, sculpture, video installations and other mediums from acclaimed regional artists. Three galleries rotate compelling contemporary exhibits to consistently offer visitors fresh perspectives. Spanning provocative themes, the museum aims to push stylistic boundaries and shine light on emerging artists. Free to all, the museum also extends learning through public talks and art workshops.

Memphis Pink Palace Museum

Name and Location: Memphis Pink Palace Museum located in Midtown at 3050 Central Avenue in the historic Pink Palace estate.

Collections and Exhibits: As Memphis’ first mansion now operated by the nonprofit Pink Palace Family of Museums, diverse galleries align with educational initiatives covering science, history and cultural connections for visitors seeking enrichment through creative programming made accessible behind an iconic facade.

What to Expect: Guests explore exhibits ranging from archeology findings unearthed locally to galleries focused on ancient Egypt, western science highlighting inventions, local heritage preservation and more rotational attractions complemented with 3D theater magic painting broad perspectives.

Visitor Information: Open daily minus select major holidays. Combination ticket packages available bundling Pink Palace access with other museums for discounted savings benefiting frequent visitors aiming to digest regional insights in depth without breaking budgets.

Tracing Memphis history from prehistoric eras to modern day, the Pink Palace Museum delivers an array of historical exhibits drawing from a collection of over 400,000 artifacts. From dinosaur skeletons, to early white settlers, to 20th century technology – the Pink Palace paints a comprehensive picture of how Memphis and the mid-south region evolved over time. Visitors can also explore mansion rooms, see outdoor botanical gardens, and access the on-site Sharkey Aquarium for free.

Historic Elmwood Cemetery

Name and Location: Historic Elmwood Cemetery located at 824 S. Dudley Street in downtown Memphis, Tennessee established 1852.

Collections and Exhibits: Serving as an open-air archive immortalizing the legacy of over 80,000 Memphians across its 80 acres through intricate monuments conveying a spectrum of symbolism reflecting the aftermath of life’s journey, Historic Elmwood Cemetery harbors visual treasures along contemplative gravel lanes.

What to Expect: Guests wandering the arboreal expanse discover Gothic chapels neighboring Egyptian obelisks while passing the final resting places of visionaries like early civil rights activist Ida B. Wells plus 60 original Confederate generals and other notable figurines from the city’s intriguing history.

Visitor Information: The cemetery grounds remain open daily 8:30AM-4:30PM year-round with opportunities to schedule guided tours focusing on custom topics. Maps aid self-navigation through the open-air museum where local heritage endures.

While cemeteries seldom rank among key attractions, Elmwood Cemetery offers more than 80 verdant acres holding intriguing tombs and mausoleums of many early Memphis luminaries. Grounds to explore include the gravesites of early entrepreneurs, yellow fever epidemic victims, civil war generals, musicians, and more. Maps help visitors traverse the arboreal landscape and better understand the site’s history. Part historic record, part sculpture garden – Elmwood Cemetery provides a sobering yet calming green space to wander.

Showcasing civil rights struggles, musical innovation, cotton commerce, and other periods intrinsic to the city’s fabric – Memphis delivers exceptional museum attractions to engage visitors of all ages. Immersive exhibits, artifacts, and preservation sites work in concert to relate captivating stories – from Elvis’ greatest hits to MLK’s final hours. For travelers looking to peel back the rich layers of Memphis history, music and culture – its diverse museums rank among the most illuminating and profoundly moving attractions to explore.

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