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After World War II, Tennesseans increasingly benefitted from new innovations in areas like business, technology, and education, ushering in an era of prosperity by the 1950s. Still, the Cold War, along with increasing social unrest, served as an uncomfortable backdrop. Featured artifacts and images document the struggle of Tennesseans to make sense of the changes brought about by these ironies. Exhibits highlight the impacts of post-war innovations on Tennesseans, the struggle of African-Americans to share in the new prosperity, the development of Tennessee’s music industries and their importance in shaping how outsiders view Tennessee, and how today’s Tennessee has emerged as a reflection of these dynamics. Through artifacts such as astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore’s flight uniform, photos of Tennesseans involved in the modern Civil Rights Movement, and William Franklin “Frank” Lyell’s posthumous Medal of Honor for his service in the Korean War, you will come away with an understanding of how Tennesseans navigated these times as a unique people who helped shape a national culture.
The 360 Interactive Theater features a cross-section of people, places, and events that have occurred across Tennessee from World War II to the present. On an interactive map, visitors will be able to learn about music artists like Kitty Wells and Big Star; events such as the Humboldt Strawberry Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest held during the Memphis in May celebration; and people like UT “Lady Vols” coach Pat Summitt and Senator Howard Baker, an instrumental figure in the Watergate hearings. The theater includes more than 100 topics to examine on a touch table as well as three large wall screens that will feature related images. The visitor will not only experience the state’s rich cultural backdrop, but will also walk away with an understanding of how people, places, and events have connected with each other across Tennessee.