Welcome to the Tennessee Association of Museums

TN Museums Reopening Panel Discussion

On May 20th, the Tennessee Association of Museums and the Tennessee State Museum hosted a discussion with several museum professionals from across the state.  Member museums shared their plans for reopening and addressed questions from the TAM community.  If you were unable to participate in the meeting, you can watch it from our TAM homepage.  If you have any problems playing the video from our site, you can watch it directly from our youtube page https://youtu.be/T8v291mJY_A.

Panelists:  Scott Williams, Discovery Park of America

                  Adam Alfrey, Museum of East Tennessee History

                  Elaine Meyer, Museum of Appalachia

Moderators:    Ashley Howell, Tennessee State Museum                                       Ken Mayes, Past President of TAM  


Welcome from Awards Committee Chair, Tori Mason

This has been, and will continue to be, a challenging time for many of us. We were all devastated when we knew we had to cancel the conference this year. But we also were determined to celebrate and recognize the hard work you all have done. So with that, we are here, presenting your awards virtually. We’re pushing through with the TAM spirit and sense of family to make sure you get the recognition you so deserve. 

·       Each year TN Assoc of Museums recognizes the projects and accomplishments achieved at TN museums during the previous year. As you will see, regardless of staff size or budget, our museums, all of YOU, are doing wonderful things that need to be recognized and applauded. This year had many entries that showed an underlying theme of diversity, inclusion and community – all so very important right now.

·       The awards committee was once again impressed over and over with the creativity, resourcefulness and commitment shown in all of the nominations. We think you’ll agree, TN Museums are doing some amazing things! We encourage you to reach out to the winners, congratulate them, ask about their winning entry, and be inspired by their ideas! We also will be featuring winners over the coming weeks on the TAM website and on social media. We hope this will not only encourage and inspire you, but be a helpful way of sharing your achievements with many others, near and far. Your awards committee is pleased to present to you the outstanding achievements of you and your colleagues.

Awards Committee Members
Your awards committee is a dedicated, volunteer group of TAM members, many who have been long time committee members. I ask a lot of them, especially in January and February, and they come through every time. I’m thankful for their commitment and dedication to TAM, their thoughtful input and commentary, and their professionalism. They’re a great team!

·       East TN:

o   Rene Rodgers, Birthplace of Country Music, Bristol

o   Hannah Rexrode, East TN Historical Society, Knoxville

o   Eric Hughey, Ft Loudon State Historic Area, Vonore

·       Middle TN:

o   Chris Grisham, TN State Museum, Nashville

o   Alex Collins, AASLH, Nashville

·       West TN:

o   Steve Maslar, Pink Palace Museum, Memphis

·       At Large Reps:

o   Emily Shipsey – Polny, Linebaugh Public Library, Murfreesboro

o   Patricia VornDick – Exhibit Graphic Designer, Nashville

o   Erica Dahlgren, Belle Meade Plantation, Nashville

Our Process

All of the nominations were looked over and then scored by each committee member on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest. When we all met, we discussed each and every nomination, then shared our scores and why we gave a nomination that score.  The scores were then totaled and averaged. If the average score was between 5.0 and 4.5, it received an award of Excellence. If the average score was between 4.49 and 3.75, it received an award of Commendation.

If a committee member’s institution was a nominee, that committee member sat out of the scoring and was not included in the average final score.

There were a few nominations we felt fit better in different categories than what they were originally nominated in, so we moved them. If you see that one of your nominations that was moved and want to know our reasons, please ask us!

We welcome you all to provide us with feedback, comments, and minor J complaints on every aspect of the awards, as we are always striving to make this process as easy as possible for everyone. 

Thank you all again for your patience and understanding. We hope this little presentation is a bright spot in this uncertain time. Your TAMFam is here for you, we’re all in this together, and we will make it through to the other side! We hope to see you in Kingsport in 2021!

Past Presidents Award


During the judging process, the committee made notes about nominations we felt were outstanding for various reasons, including creativity, impact and reach, mission related, and resources used. And as you will see, not all of our choices were from Class 5 or Class 6 museums.  After all entries were judged, the committee looked at those nominations and their overall average score. We then presented our top choices to our past presidents – Dan Pomeroy, Bill Hickerson, Myers Brown, Adam Alfrey and Ken Mayes – who were then given the task to determine which one would be the recipient of this year’s Past Presidents Award.  Because there were so many outstanding award nominations this year, the committee had a difficult time narrowing it down. All of these contenders presented unique and inspiring exhibits and programs, again showing inclusiveness, diversity and pushing boundaries. They were all moving and exceptional, and most of them presented something definitely outside of the typical museum box. They all should be very, very proud.  I present to you the 6 contenders, in alphabetical order:

·       Davies Manor Plantation, Memphis

o   Permanent Exhibit - Omitted in Mass: Rediscovering Lost Narratives of Enslavement, Migration and Memory Through the Davies Family’s Papers

·       East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville

o   Educational Programming – East Tennessee’s Place in History Artifact Cards

·       Heritage Alliance, Jonesborough

o   Special Event – Voices of the Chester

·       Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga

o   Temporary Exhibit – Noel Anderson: Blak Origin Movement

·       Pink Palace Museum, Memphis

o   Temporary Exhibit – Making Memphis: 200 Years of Community

o   Traveling Exhibit – Memphis’ Bicentennial Goes to Poland!


Due to the fact that the East TN Historical Society had a nomination in consideration for the Past President’s recognition, Adam Alfrey, curator at ETHS, chose to sit out of the decision process. Ken Mayes also saw a conflict of interest with one of the nominees so also sat out of the decision process. So this year’s winner was chosen by Dan, Myers and Bill. And that winner is…..

Davies Manor Plantation!

Some comments from the presidents:

“As in the past, it is a very difficult challenge to pick one, since the categories are so different, as are the institutions, e.g., ranging from the Pink Palace to Davies Manor.  Which is something of a long-winded way of saying, they are all exemplary, and I can see why each of them was forwarded to us.  Each of them exhibit amazing creativity and imagination, in addition to hard and diligent work, in successful efforts to engage new audiences in new ways.  They are all worthy of commendation.”


“My first place choice is Davies Manor.  I cannot help but be impressed by what they have done with such a small staff and budget, and with a site that is relatively remote and rarely accessed, though near an urban area.  They accomplished a notable degree of research (starting from their own archives), brought in an impressive array of scholars, and interviewed twenty-nine living descendants of the enslaved people who inhabited the property.  And the results exist now as a permanent exhibit, an important and enduring resource for visitors. As their creation of and inclusion in subsequent programs demonstrates, this has brought Davies Manor from the backwater to the forefront of public outreach and contemporary interpretation.”


“The staff and volunteers have created an outstanding model for other historic house museums/plantations to emulate. Certainly they’re not the first to undertake incorporating stories/roles of members of the enslaved population, but many others, including organizations with far greater resources, still lag behind.”


“They are the definition of a small museum and made herculean efforts to pull off a visually appealing exhibit that explored a heretofore ignored part of their story. This does what an exhibit is supposed to do: pull the story from the primary sources to enlighten the visitor. The fact that their staff is very small and their budget is a fraction of the other projects make it even more impressive.”


Comments from the Presidents on other contenders:


“East Tennessee Historical Society’s “Artifact Cards” covers a number of bases in innovative outreach and historical interpretation.  I am not aware of anything like it anywhere else.  The “Artifact Cards,” among other things, offer a lifeline to fifth grade teachers trying to deal with new social studies standards requiring them to teach Tennessee History.  The ETHS has once again demonstrated that, when it comes to history, they are a go-to nexus.”


“In trying to devote relatively equal time and attention to each submission, I struggled to stop reading each of the wonderful ETHS “Artifact Cards.” The concept is brilliant. How exciting it is to know Tennessee history is again … finally … being taught in schools! The Cards are an invaluable resource.”

“The Pink Palace’s first traveling exhibit is notable in itself as a first, but then to develop it in consultation with Polish advocates in Memphis and officials/consultants in Poland before traveling it to the Sopot Festival in Poland is almost breathtaking.  It is a model for never aiming too low.


The “Making Memphis” exhibit at the Pink Palace, which was the basis for the traveling display to Poland, is impressive in its scale (6,000 square feet), and the innovative and thoughtful techniques they employed to tell an interwoven and complex story spanning two hundred years are examples of achievement for us all.


The “Voices of Chester” at the Chester Inn offered an innovative and obviously popular interpretive strategy to bring a long-standing and sometimes taken-for-granted historic structure to renewed life.  The structure represents the stories of the diverse and different people who lived there, and “Voices of Chester” brings the building to new life.


The Hunter Museum’s “Noel Anderson: Blak Origins Moment” shows an amazing degree of thoughtfulness and effort to make the museum inviting to the African American community, and to address some of the difficult issues wrapped around race, identity, and culture.”


Congratulations to all of you on your outstanding achievements!

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