Cotton: Innovation, Mechanization, and Modernization
Once visitors have fully surveyed the Exchange floor, they proceed into our second exhibit, Exploration Hall, which addresses the more modern elements of the cotton industry. Exploration Hall includes the Monsanto Resource Center, a spacious classroom fully fitted with audiovisual equipment. From samples of waterproof denim to tractor models, this wing engages visitors of all ages. Here visitors can show off their strength by picking up a full cotton bag used during harvest time and get to know the pests that can ruin a crop (especially those pesky boll weevils!). The exploration hall also houses a real gene gun that blasts DNA into seeds, a biotechnology tool used to grow better cotton. Exploration Hall teaches guests about the mechanization of the cotton industry. “Old Red” was one of the first mechanical cotton pickers built. Operation at 2 mph, it could do the work of 40 hand laborers. In 1978, “Old Red” was designated a Historic Landmark of Agricultural Engineering. Visitors get a chance to take the wheel of a mechanical picker and imagine what it would feel like to participate in an industrial revolution!
Students explore cotton production, sustainability in agriculture, the industry’s technological innovations and mechanization, and how cotton transformed American life and the Southern landscape in our Exploration Hall. The exhibit is especially designed to inform our young visitors as a part of the museum’s education program. Our program boasts hands-on activities, multimedia resources, and guided tours and lecture techniques for students from kindergarten through high school. Cotton’s importance both as an agricultural commodity in the U.S. and as an often-used item in our everyday lives means it is a vital subject that engages students of all ages. Our guided tours incorporate Tennessee state and national academic standards. There is no better place to learn about cotton, it’s economy, and it’s impact on our culture than the Cotton Museum!