Three Stars. Thousands of Stories.

October 4, 2018
Three Stars. Thousands of Stories.


Connected Project
Tennessee State Museum
October 4, 2018
Three Stars. Thousands of Stories.

The New Tennessee State Museum Comes to Life
On October 4, 2018, the new Tennessee State Museum opened in Nashville, Tennessee. This 137,000-square-foot museum tells the complex history of Tennessee, ranging from the natural history of the region to cultural history, art, and even a separate children’s gallery.

“It required a great deal of collaboration and stellar design to create one of the largest and most dynamic museums Gallagher & Associates has delivered to date,” says G&A Principal, Cybelle Jones.

Credit: Duncan R. Miller

Forging your path through history
“Planning and designing the new Tennessee State Museum was a chance to think about what a history museum for the next generation really means,” says G&A President, Patrick Gallagher. Our design approach was “to create a facility that allows visitors to create their own experiences with time and place relative to their particular understanding and interests.”

The Tennessee Time Tunnel serves as the backbone of this experiential journey. Interwoven through the museum’s six permanent galleries, visitors can self-select entry portals to go back in time. Large-scale immersive environments give visitors a sense of place as they explore landmark historical events throughout each era. This multi-layered approach takes people inside history–as much or as little as they’d like to explore.

As Lamar Alexander, the US Senator from Tennessee, says, “you can walk across the state in 30 minutes and you can begin to get a good idea of the wonderful stories here.”

Diverse landscape–diverse perspectives
In many ways, the Tennessee story is an American story—from the Volunteer Soldiers of the Civil War to the Civil Rights’ sit-in movement, and MLK’s assassination to the famous Beale Street music scene. Tennessee history is national history.

In Tennessee, three distinct geographic districts—the mountains, the plains, and the delta—are represented by the three stars of the flag. It’s this connection to place that plays a pivotal role in a person’s perspective on history; and therefore, geography plays a critical role in the design of the museum.

Intersectional storytelling ensures we account for each person’s unique perspective. “We want the visitor to be able to place themselves inside the shoes of these people. Understand through the voice of the people who lived it what challenges and emotions they experienced,” says Senior Graphic Designer, Vassiana Alexieva.

These stories are carefully brought to life, represented through spoken word, physical artifacts, interactive media, music, and graphics.

A living museum
The design team faced a unique opportunity to maximize the museum’s over 30,000-piece artifact collection. “We wanted to create a museum that not only embraced its collections but made them part of the voice for the institution with active open storage systems throughout the museum itself,” recalled Patrick Gallagher.

Over 2,200 artifacts are on display: from macro-artifacts such as the rare made-in-Nashville Marathon Automobile to the art-lined walls, civil war memorabilia and unique objects representing the thousands of lives lived in Tennessee. Throughout the year, four rotating galleries unveil more artifacts from the museum’s vast collection.

It’s a true living museum. You leave with a deeper connection to the state and its profound impact on the country and the world—and you will always have a reason to return.