Tennessee State Museum Musings

On a dreary day of fall break staycation, I took the boys to the new Tennessee State Museum, which opened this month. Despite constant drizzle and overcast skies outside the massive windows, the museum itself was anything but dreary, enlivened by sweeping views of the Capitol, Bicentennial Mall and Nashville Farmers’ Market and by soaring architecture that gave us all some room to breathe, even if we had to be indoors.

Tennessee has some history, that’s for sure. We enjoyed a smattering of artifacts ranging from fossils and arrowheads to furniture and finery, not to mention what must surely be the best collection of Red Grooms’s art anywhere.

My kids had some questions:

1. Where is the Red Grooms Tennessee Foxtrot Carousel?

2. Why does this place not have a green roof?

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law made an observation that got me thinking about museums of the future. She pointed out that she has a lot of rocks in her yard that she has carried home from vacations in Michigan. Given that her yard isn’t too far from a Civil War battlefield, won’t future historians be confused, if they ever root around and find a clutch of Petoski rocks among the rusting detritus of nineteenth century munitions?

Future historians. Apart from being a great name for a band, they’ve got their work cut out for them, figuring out what the heck went down here in the 21st century.

Petoski rocks in a Nashville backyard are the least of it. Imagine future historians unearthing, for example, a T.J. Maxx and trying to make sense of the convergence of so much luggage, lingerie, and snack foods near their sell-by dates.

But that riddle is going to be a piece of cake compared to the geologic conundrum facing future historians who stumble upon all the live-edge waterfall tables with epoxy resin accents.

I’m talking about those tables that everyone’s making on Instagram, where they lay pieces of raw wood next to each other then fill the gap between the rough edges with a colorful goo that hardens to look like glass or amber. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, search #ResinTable on Instagram.)

I just can’t help thinking future historians are going to be confused by that ubiquitous pairing of incongruous materials. Will it lead them to wonder if all those groovy tables came from some psychedelic Indiana Jones Crystal Skull forest?

Seeing myself type that last sentence makes me realize how much we all need a better sense of history. A trip to the new Tennessee State Museum is s great first step.

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