Discover a Hidden Gem at the Metal Museum

Metal Flower at Metal Museum in Memphis - andrea zucker

The National Metal Museum is a perfect venue for weddings. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Repair days at the Metal Museum - Andrea Zucker

The National Metal Ornamental Metal Museum will offer repair days throughout the year for consumers to bring in their broken metalworks. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Beautiful sunset on Mississippi River - Andrea Zucker

Catch a beautiful sunset on the banks of the Mississippi River. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Workshop at National Ornamental Metal Museum - Andrea Zucker

Working hard at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Sunset behind the American Queen Steamboat - Andrea Zucker

Sunset behind the American Queen on the Mississippi River

The Metal Museum has a view pretty enough to make a grown man cry. In fact, Mark Twain said it was the best view of the Mississippi River between Cairo and New Orleans.  This museum is one of Memphis’ best kept secrets and offers a rich history, spectacular exhibits, unique gifts and activities the whole family can enjoy.

The land that the museum sits on originally housed a marine hospital, which was operational from 1884 to 1965, and a nurses dormitory, which was built in the 1930s. After it closed, the land was deeded to the City of Memphis who then leased it to a group of businessmen who wanted “to develop a museum dedicated to the collection, exhibition and preservation of ornamental metalwork,” for the hefty sum of $1 a year.

The Metal Museum officially opened in February 1979, and to this day, remains the only museum of its kind in the world. The 3.2 acre campus features two separate gallery buildings. The back building houses the permanent collection which contains traditional European metalwork as well as sculptures by contemporary American artists. You will find hand-carved knives, delicate lockboxes and intricately crafted doors, gates and light fixtures along the walls, hanging from the ceiling and throughout the garden and grounds.

The front building displays traveling exhibits, temporary installations and student showcases. The museum hosts 9 to 12 exhibits every year from around the world. You can often find group shows based around a certain theme, like weights and measures, or ammunition or smaller solo shows featuring some of the world’s greatest up and coming metalsmiths. The current exhibit highlights jewelry and sculpture from master metalsmith, Eleanor Moty.

Art isn’t just displayed at the Metal Museum; it’s made there as well. With a complete working blacksmith on site, you can see how these unconventional works of art are forged. The museum also provides metalworking classes, apprenticeships and hands on training for young metalsmiths. 

Get your holiday, birthday and wedding shopping done in one fell swoop at the museum’s gift shop. Choose from a variety of unique metalwork items that you won’t find anywhere else supplied by artists, jewelers and sculptors from all over the country.

The picturesque grounds make a beautiful backdrop for weddings and parties, and the museum is a great place for a picnic. There is no charge to bring your lunch, sit in the gazebo on the bluff and enjoy Mark Twain’s favorite view.