Located in the Bicentennial Mall complex in Nashville, the Tennessee State Museum introduces the state’s rich history and creates innovative, cutting-edge educational assets and attractions. 

EOA Architects, a locally recognised architect and national museum designer HGA, paired together to build this exciting and unique state-of-the-art cultural facility in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet1
Tennessee State Museum_ ©Corey Gaffer

Architects: EOA Architects, HGA
Area: 140,000 ft²
Year: 2018
Lead Architects: Sheila Dial Barton (EOA); Nancy Blankfard (HGA)
Structural Engineering:  EMC Structural Engineers
Project Management: Compass Partners, LLC
MPE Engineering: HGA
Landscape: Hodgson Douglas
Civil Engineering: S&ME 


The Tennessee State Museum, located at the intersection of Rosa L. Parks Blvd. and Jefferson Street in Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, has its origins in what seems like a museum founded on the Nashville public square in 1817 by a portrait artist named Ralph E.W. Earl.

The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet2
Exterior_©Seth Parker, Parker Studios
The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet3
Exterior view_©Corey Gaffer

The Tennessee General Assembly established a state museum in 1937 to house mementoes from World War I and other collections from the state, the Tennessee Historical Society, and other organisations. Until 1981, this museum was situated on the basement floor of the War Memorial Building before being relocated to the new James K. Polk Center. It stayed there for more than three decades until Governor Bill Haslam suggested a new location for the museum on the north-western corner of Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall in 2015. The Tennessee General Assembly allocated $120 million to the museum’s construction, with the remaining funds to be gathered via private contributions.

The new Tennessee State Museum, which spans 140,000 square feet of administrative and gallery space, is the first of its kind in the state and welcomed the public on October 04, 2018.

Design and Approach

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Rendered Site Plan_©EOA Architects + HGA

The new museum celebrates Tennessee’s rich and diverse history while also enlivening Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall, making it a magnet for future generations. Through collections, displays, activities, and events, the building enhances the visitor experience and engages the public in the history and relevance of Tennessee. Its magnificent artefacts from Tennessee’s history are shown in adaptable exhibit spaces, and it provides learning opportunities for teachers, students, and the general public through programming, lectures, symposia, and interactive learning spaces. The institution can borrow and show a variety of items from other worldwide institutions due to its strict adherence to the highest quality criteria for museum infrastructure.

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Floor Plan_©EOA Architects + HGA

The gallery and other planned areas are spread across two floors, totalling 140,000 square feet. External sculpture gardens, a water feature promenade, and an event lawn space are also included in the project, which supports the museum’s outdoor functions. In addition, the museum shares a 150-space parking lot with the Farmers Market across the street.

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Upper Verandah_©Corey Gaffer
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Interiors_©Corey Gaffer

The porch and upper veranda, which lead from the magnificent lawn, are typical of Tennessee architecture. The porch pays homage to the State Capitol, antebellum mansions, rural churches, old courthouses, and governmental facilities that may be seen across Tennessee, and it is popular among Tennesseans. The Three Grand Divisions of Tennessee are represented by a terrazzo star inlay in the Grand Hall, which represents the Tennessee flag and its three stars. The Grand Lobby ceiling also features 95 lights, one for each of Tennessee’s counties.

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Grand Lobby_©Corey Gaffer

The Museum’s principal axial orientation to the Tennessee State Capitol has been planned by the Design Team through its primary circulation areas on the different levels. This has been one of the building’s main entrances, which leads from the Bicentennial Mall and authorised parking space. Furthermore, the building’s east-west axial orientation corresponds to facing the Bicentennial Mall’s nearby Carillon.

Material Innovation

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Visitor’s Locker_©Corey Gaffer

The building’s dominant stone is limestone, which is also utilised throughout the Capitol Complex and as the predominant material for the State Capitol. The Design Team chose bronze as a metal to complement the other state government buildings in the area. Interior and exterior railings, exterior metal panels, door/window systems, and elevators were all made of bronze.

The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet10
Lime stone as the dominant material_©Corey Gaffer
The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet11
Internal Staircase with Bronze railing_©Corey Gaffer
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Natural daylight_©Corey Gaffer
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Exhibition area_©Corey Gaffer

Tennessee Quaker Gray Marble was utilised as an accent stone on the interior and outside of the building, as well as in unique sections within the interiors. Crab Orchard Gray Stone, native to Middle Tennessee, has been included inside external plaza areas and entry pavers; this marble is mined near Knoxville, Tennessee, and is found in prominent structures around the United States. The canal wall that bisects the entry sequence/lawn from the south is likewise made of Crab Orchard BlueStone.

Contextual Sustainability

The museum has a thoughtful design that achieves poetic expression with little resources and deep attention to the environmental effect of the architects’ design decisions.

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Central skylight_©Corey Gaffer

To compensate for the reduced lighting levels in the galleries, natural daylighting was critical in the public rooms. Above the massive stair and centre rotunda space, large skylights were employed. The lower rotunda’s ceiling provided another chance to highlight our state wildflower, the Passionflower.

An interactive touch table and three enormous wall panels in the museum’s theatre allow visitors to study more than 100 cultural subjects. Other museums, universities, schools, and academics can utilize the Digital Learning and Outreach Center for presentations and remote access.

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Interior Corridor_©Corey Gaffer
The Tennessee State Museum by EOA Architects + HGA - Sheet16
Interior_©Corey Gaffer

To provide the necessary level of technical performance for these exhibits, the museum’s technical team chose a ZeeVee and Juniper Networks-driven Software-Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE) AVoIP solution to distribute the wide array of AV content throughout the facility. For starters, the SDVoE AVoIP network can deliver high image quality with near-zero latency, which was essential for the interactive exhibits. The technology also allows the museum to quickly scale to deliver content to additional endpoints as permanent and temporary exhibits call for more sources or displays to be connected.

Exhibits at the Museum were redesigned in 2019 to accommodate environmental challenges in the ageing building and better protect important military artefacts in the Military Branch of the museum.

State-of-the-art Cultural Facility

The Museum Store features art and craft by Tennessee craftsmen, as well as current exhibits. In a film given at the Gala and now available on YouTube, juror Yanitza Brongers-Marrero, President of the American Institute of Architects, Columbus, Ohio, remarked, “I think the Tennessee State Museum is a beautiful example of outstanding architecture.”

In September 2020, the museum received an Excellence in Development Award from the Urban Land Institute’s Nashville Chapter for its “design and construction, catalytic effect, industry excellence, and environmental care.” 


  1. Tnmuseum.org. 2022. History and Mission Statement | Tennessee State Museum. [online] Available at: <https://tnmuseum.org/history-and-mission-statement> [Accessed 13 March 2022].
  2. ArchDaily. 2022. The Tennessee State Museum / EOA Architects + HGA. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/941837/the-tennessee-state-museum-eoa-architects-plus-hga> [Accessed 13 March 2022].
  3. SSR. 2022. Tennessee State Museum – SSR. [online] Available at: <https://www.ssr-inc.com/projects/tennessee-state-museum/> [Accessed 13 March 2022].
  4. Tn.gov. 2022. Tennessee State Museum Receives Prestigious Urban Land Institute Award. [online] Available at: <https://www.tn.gov/museum/news/2020/10/1/tennessee-state-museum-receives-prestigious-urban-land-institute-award.html> [Accessed 13 March 2022].
  5. Mccoynash.com. 2022. Tennessee State Museum – McCoy Design. [online] Available at: <https://mccoynash.com/case-study/tennessee-state-museum/> [Accessed 13 March 2022].

A final-year architecture student who enjoys traveling and learning about culture, architecture, and history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and scribbling down her ideas. She attempts to capture many perspectives on the world through her writings.

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