In addition to exhibitions, museums use a variety of tools to tell stories. Here at the State Museum, that includes a plethora of programming, from lunchtime lectures to tours to classes and family events. We post videos to our Video portal. We publish a quarterly newsletter, a bi-weekly e-newsletter and a weekly children's e-newsletter. We share artifacts on our social media channels, and maintain two blogs, Junior Curators, geared toward a younger school-age audience, and Thousands of Stories, where you are reading this now and where we post lengthier in-depth articles about Tennessee history. Each year, we dig into the stats on Thousands of Stories, to see what resonated the most with our readers. Should you have missed a post, here are the ten most popular stories from 2022.
1. The Story of Chinese Laborers and the Reconstruction South - The history of Asian immigration to Tennessee begins in the 1870s, when Chinese people settled in Memphis, building businesses and lives in the Delta. But only a few years prior, southern landowners and businessmen established the roots of a doomed plan to contract Chinese laborers to work farmland.
2. When Paying a Poll Tax in Tennessee Was the Norm - On August 2, 1894, a Black man named C.A. McCamey (also spelled McKamey) paid $2.00 in state and county poll taxes in Knox County and saved his tax receipt. It is now in the collection of the Tennessee State Museum. This document and others like it, though small and modest in appearance, help preserve the stories of African Americans and others who worked to maintain their right to vote despite the poll taxes implemented to disenfranchise them.
3. When Love Came to Town: U2 at Sun Studio - November marked the 35th anniversary of Irish band U2's landmark recording session at Sun Studio in Memphis, the results of which would wind up on the band's 1988 double album, and accompanying film, Rattle and Hum.
4. A Smoky Mountain Home: The Story of Cabinetmaker Lewis Buckner - Lying on the border between East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, Sevier County is considered a scenic gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Its borders encompass Gatlinburg. It’s the birthplace of Dolly Parton. At the turn of the twentieth century, it was home to another important Tennessean, cabinetmaker Lewis Buckner (1856-1924).
5. The AIDS Epidemic in Tennessee: Grassroots Advocacy in the Three Grand Divisions - Throughout Tennessee in 1985, two years before the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was formed in New York City, AIDS advocacy groups started at a grassroots level in the three major cities in each division – Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis – before spreading out to serve their surrounding counties. This quick mobilization by the community across the state, and subsequent demand for action by government officials for all Tennesseans, is what makes Tennessee unique.
6. Stitching a Story: Learning from African American Quilts - Equally functional and artistic, quilts provide warmth and decoration in the home. A quilt can speak to the environment of its creator—what materials were available to them, what friends or family may have contributed, and elements of their surroundings that are represented in the quilt’s motifs. Three newly acquired quilts at the Tennessee State Museum provide insight into the artistry, labor, and domestic lives of Black craftswomen in the state.
7. Tennessee State Museum: Celebrating 85 Years - The mark the Museum's 85th anniversary, we looked back at our history. Originally housed in the War Memorial Building, the Museum moved to the Polk Cultural Center in 1981, and then to its current building, now named the Bill Haslam Center, in 2018. Along the way, the Museum expanded its collection, enhanced its management systems and took advantage of new digital and technological opportunities, all while welcoming visitors to engage with the State of Tennessee’s collections.
8. Protecting and Exhibiting Textiles at the Tennessee State Museum - A consistent rotation schedule for textiles is a necessary preventative measure to reduce exposure to environmental factors that can deteriorate fabric. Textiles are particularly sensitive due to their organic nature, so frequent rotation can slow deterioration and help keep objects in a stable condition for longer. As a result, we take a look at recent textile changes in our permanent galleries.
9. Tennessee State Museum a Stop on Women’s Sports History Tour - This year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX in 1972, Nashville Sites released a driving tour focusing on women’s sports history across the Volunteer state. Just a few of the spots on the tour are the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in Nashville, the University of Tennessee-Martin in Weakley County, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, and our own Tennessee State Museum.
10. Exploring the Nashville Story of Hot Chicken - To Rachel Martin, the story of Nashville hot chicken is the story of America itself — of how our race-based caste system has shaped our institutions, our food, and our urban landscapes and the ways those forces have made it so hard for Black entrepreneurs to profit from their own creative endeavors. A shared love of a fiery soul-food staple might not be enough to heal a city’s centuries-old divisions, Martin admits. But acknowledging its creators and the long odds they faced is an important first step.