Tennessee State Museum highlights 100 artifacts to celebrate 225 years of statehood

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee State Museum is honoring the 225 birthday of the state by highlighting 100 items set to debut June 1.

The new exhibit is called ‘Tennessee at 225: Highlights from the Collection’.

It will feature 100 different artifacts from the Museum’s collection across five themes. Those themes are art, community, innovation, service, and transformation. Museum officials said these themes encompass artifacts from each gallery and share the extensive history of Tennessee.

News 2’s Alex Corradetti spoke with Annabeth Hayes, curator of decorative arts, and Brigette Jones, curator of social history. Both worked with museum curators, educators, and staff to select the objects and stories to be showcased.

“The most challenging part was choosing five themes that would unify objects across time, divisions, and areas of history. We worked really hard to identify themes, which may seem broad but would help connect 1880 Sevier County to 2020 Mt. Juliet,” said Hayes.

Jones said it was difficult to select just 100 items from so many historic pieces.

“We went through with a fine tooth comb. We picked items that were part of the diverse makeup of Tennessee and of it’s continuous history. We tried to make sure people who would come through this exhibit would look at things that typically, they would pass right on by for the next big object,” explained Jones.

In the museum, you’ll see a printing press on display. Not far from it, the public will find one of the oldest books in Tennessee history.

“The Laws of the State of Tennessee was printed by this man named George Roulstone in 1803, and it was one of the most foremost legal texts in the state at the time. I think what’s really interesting is his wife, Elizabeth Roulstone, had a hand in printing it as well. A year later, George dies and she took over the printing business and becomes the first female elected official in the state when she becomes state printer,” explained Hayes.

Other items represent the craftsmanship at the time.

“We have the Richard Poynor chair. Richard Poynor was enslaved here in Tennessee, specifically in Williamson County. He was really well known as an artisan, His chairs were sought after in that time period. He was actually able to purchase his freedom in the 1850s as a result of his skillset,” said Jones.

Other items provide a picture of learning at the time.

“We have the Cherokee sampler by Nancy Reece, which dates back to 1823. It’s actually one of the earliest known samplers I believe in the country. It’s representative of the Brainerd Mission which is in present day Chattanooga or near there. It would have taught young Cherokee children basic education,” explained Jones.

Both Hayes and Jones said they want people to walk away learning something after visiting.

“As a social historian, I think its important to commemorate how far we have come socially, racially and of course how that plays into economics as well,” said Jones.

“We want Tennesseans to come here and reflect on the past, and how we got here, but to also how they can contribute to the history of the state and the community that we have here. They are part of this social fabric, and its a long lasting legacy on being a Tennessean whether you were born here or you lived here,” explained Hayes.

Among the artifacts highlighted in each theme throughout the Museum are:

The self-guided tour and online exhibition will begin on June 1 and run until May 31, 2022. Visitors can choose to visit the museum to view the artifacts in person and will be provided with a gallery guide at the visitor desk.

The exhibit online allows the public to sort by theme, view images of artifacts and read interpretations regarding the artifacts’ histories.

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