The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange
65 Union Avenue, Memphis, TN, USA
The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange Reviews
Learn why cotton was king in Memphis Aug 15, 2012
It can often be a challenge to find museums open on a Monday, which is the situation I found myself in on a recent visit to Memphis. I had marked the Cotton Museum as a “maybe” in my guidebook, but when confronted with an unexpected open afternoon, decided to give it a try.
Cotton played a key role in the development of the city, and for years Memphis was the center of the international cotton trade. (From 1880 to 1930, 70% of the cotton crop was located within a 200-mile radius of Memphis making it the world’s largest source of spot-cotton or “cash-crop” trading.) The Cotton Museum’s main exhibit area is located in the original Memphis Cotton Exchange Trading Floor. Restored to its 1930’s appearance, a lot is packed into this single large room.
The museum takes you through the history of Memphis and the surrounding region, from the days of slavery and sharecropping to the contemporary high-tech cotton industry. Videos, artifacts, and several opportunities to be “hands-on” can be found. I especially liked the introductory video – which you can activate on your own schedule, so no waiting for it to loop back to the beginning – as it offered a nice explanation of the history of cotton in Memphis. Certain facts are repeated several times, though I imagine that’s because most people don’t spend as much time reading the descriptions as I tend to do.
You can also pick-up an iPod from the gift shop and take a self-guided audio tour of Cotton Row, the historic block surrounding the museum.
I’m not sure if the museum is worth the $10 admission (think $8 would have been a more appropriate price), but in the end I got out of the heat for an hour or so, learned a few things about cotton, and was able to support a smaller one-of-a-kind museum.
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