Walk a Mile in Elvis’ Shoes

Graceland Archivist Angie Marchese Helps Visitors Walk a Mile in Elvis’ Shoes

Elvis Presley at Graceland 1957. Photo Credit: EPE

Elvis Presley at Graceland

Elvis. Photo Credit: EPE

Elvis Presley performs in his '68 Special

Stax neon sign vertical - Dan Ball

Stax Museum is the former home of Stax Records, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and more. Photo by Dan Ball.

Rocky the Redbirds Mascot. Photo Credits: Allison Rhoades

Memphis Redbirds

Peabody Duck March. Photo Credit: The Peabody Memphis

See the ducks march in the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN. Photo courtesy of the Peabody Memphis.

Elvis Presley, King of Rock 'n' Roll, 1965: EPE

Elvis Presley, King of Rock 'n' Roll

Sun Studios. Photo Credit: Commercial Appeal

Sun Studio tours give you the opportunity to see where Elvis and Johnny Cash recorded. Photo by The Commercial Appeal.

Elvis at Graceland. Photo Credit: EPE

Elvis Presley on the grounds of Graceland.

It might be possible that Angie Marchese has not just the coolest job in Memphis, but maybe in the entire world. As the Director of Archives for Elvis Presley Enterprises, she is responsible for giving the “white glove” treatment to all of the items on display at Graceland, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands, of artifacts that aren’t currently on exhibit. Find out what exactly an archivist does, some great behind-the-scenes Elvis stories, and learn about the coolest Elvis memorabilia from the one woman who has seen it all.

What exactly does it mean to be an archivist?
Here at Elvis Presley Enterprises, it means that we are the storytellers, the historians and the keepers of the collection. Through our exhibits, we shape our guests’ experience. We all care for both the items on display and in storage. Only about a tenth of our collection is on display at any given time. That means we have a lot that has never been seen, and those items are stored in various archives locations. We are responsible for all exhibit development from conception through installation. We are the keepers of the legacy, so yes, I have the best job.
 
How long have you been working at Graceland?
I started as a tour guide as a summer job when I was in high school, and 24 years later, I'm still here.
 
Did you have any special training?
I learned “Elvis 101” from being a tour guide. It is important when dealing with a collection that you understand the subject, and the more you know. the better you can tell the story. I have taken some collection classes, and I am always keeping up with trends in the field.
 
Can you walk us through the process authenticating an item?
We are very careful when we authenticate anything. We usually only authenticate items from the Elvis Presley Enterprises collection. I know there is a lot of stuff out there, and there are ways of telling whether an artifact is genuine. We try to get as much history on a piece as we can. We examine our documents to provide paper proof and our photographs to provide visual proof. Elvis was a creature of habit, and once you know his tendencies, it makes it easier to find the truth.
 
What is your favorite Elvis outfit or costume?
There are two. We have a Brown Leather jacket with multi-colored fringe made by North Beath Leather, and the second reminds me of my childhood. When I first saw That's the Way It Is, I vividly recall the first outfit he wore in the popular documentary. It was a fringe jumpsuit from 1970, and I can remember how unbelievably cute he looked in it. When I first saw it in archives, to be that close to it, was indescribable.
 
Can you tell us a behind-the-scenes Elvis story most people don’t know?
The Elvis that I like best is the personal side: the father, the son, the friend. He had such a sense of humor, and he was so giving. I still am amazed, as I go through the documents, at all of the money he gave to charity, to friends and the gifts and trips he purchased for others. He was truly an amazing person and loved playing practical jokes.
 
What are some of your favorite Memphis restaurants?
Café Ole, Sweet Grass, Hadley's Pub in Bartlett and Ty's Smokehouse.
 
If someone is visiting Memphis for the first time, what attractions do you tell them to visit (other than Graceland, of course)?
You have to go to Sun Studio and stand on the “X” where it all began. I love the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Beale Street. During basketball season a Memphis Grizzlies game is a must, and during the summer I always tell people to check out the Redbirds. Memphis has so many great things to offer. And you can't forget the ducks at the Peabody Hotel.