By Mike Steely

From giant sloth fossils to John Sevier and Davy Crockett, the area of East Tennessee is very well represented in the new Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

Located at the end of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall near the state house the state museum is very well organized and the self-guided walk through begins with displays of fossils and bones from the Gray Fossil Site in Gray, Tennessee near Johnson City and proceeds to provide information about Native American villages in the Overhill town near Vonore.

The display is on the second floor of the large building and begins as you enter the “Time Tunnel.” From there you can follow the history of the state as it progresses or use the printed guide and skip to the part of the Volunteer State’s story  you wish to see.

Better plan at least two hours for the venture. Parking next to the museum at the Farmer’s Market area is free. Winter is a great time to visit because the museum isn’t crowded and you can usually find a place to park. The museum is kid friendly and there’s lots to see.

Permanent exhibits include Natural History, the First People, Forging the Nation, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Change and Challenge, and Tennessee Transformations, which details the state’s modern history.

East Tennessee’s contributions are scattered throughout the museum and features Dolly Parton’s costumes, a Chet Adkins guitar, and so much more.

There’s also information on Civil War encounters in our state, including the Fort Sanders battle and the history of the KKK following that war. There is a display of Oak Ridge’s “Secret City” as well as Alex Haley’s story.

Driving to the state museum can be a bit confusing. Coming from Knoxville you can take I-40 to I-24 North to Jefferson Street. Turn west and follow Jefferson to Rosa L. Parks Blvd, turning left to the museum. Admission is free but you’ll need to check in at the information desk and let them look at whatever you are carrying into the building.

You can find more information at or by calling 615-741-2692.