What will your students learn?
The foundation of the tour is the Museum space itself; we introduce students to the Memphis Cotton Exchange and it’s history on Front Street while standing on the original trading floor of the Exchange. The tour guide describes the origins of the city of Memphis through the cotton industry, detailing the rise of the local economy and local culture. The exhibits, artifacts, oral histories and archival footage discuss how Memphis was founded as a shipping port for cotton and slaves in 1819. Our city was shaped by the industry – the music, art and history that makes our culture unique was brought to us by the confluence of people that were gathered here due to cotton. A special exhibition on the heritage of the Blues particularly highlights the cultural influences of the cotton industry.
The Museum’s second focus is on the cotton plant itself – how it is grown, how it is harvested and how it is used. Displays will explain the life cycle of the plant, from seed to bloom to boll, and the pests that commonly disrupt the plant. Hands-on demonstrations of cotton “classing” will help students understand the different grades of cotton, based on color, strength and staple length. Students learn about the innovations in the industry, from mechanization in the fields to biotechnology in the seed to fiber innovation in the mills. The cotton industry is a high-tech industry that employees top-level biologists, engineers, and chemists. The changes in technology also had a strong affect on the communities where cotton was grown; with the advent of the gin, the cotton harvester and biotechnology, the economies and cultures of the American South were drastically changed. We’ll discuss the genesis of the slave trade, the emergence of share cropping, and the Great Migration of rural African Americans into urban areas.
Explore more cotton information and history at the following sites:
- The Textile System
- The Cotton Gin Museum
- Tennessee History for Kids
Students may be dropped off in front of the Cotton Museum. The entrance and loading zone is on the north side of the building facing Union Avenue. Busses may pause breifly in the loading zone with flashers opperating while children disembark. We suggest parking large buses at The Visitor Information Center located at 119 N. Riverside Drive.
Cars and Vans:
Students may be dropped off in front of the Cotton Museum in the loading zone on Union Avenue. We suggest parking in any of the parking garages located near the museum. Guide to Downtown parking.
Unfortunately, The Cotton Museum cannot accommodate students for lunch but there are several great options within walking distance:
Inside: These venues are not open to the public, call to make arrangements.
Restaurants offering student discounts: Call to confirm student discount