The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is proud to have been developed in unique cooperation with the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition of the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is the first and only to have ever been developed by the Smithsonian in collaboration with another museum.
The museum’s story first began in 1990 as a traveling exhibition titled “Rock ‘n’ Soul: Social Crossroads”. It was developed by the Smithsonian Institution to commemorate its 150th anniversary. Upon the completion of the traveling exhibition, memorabilia was collected and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum was established in Memphis, the birthplace of the blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum complex and research organization. It is composed of 14 different museums, including the Washington D.C. National Zoo and 2 museums in New York City. The Smithsonian’s exhibitions offer visitors a glimpse into its vast collection of over 142 million objects. In fact, at any given time, the Smithsonian can only display less than 2 percent of its objects. While the Smithsonian’s affiliate museum program currently includes 92 museum affiliates in 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Panama, its relationship with the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum remains unique. The integrity of the Smithsonian Institution is evidenced throughout the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. The exhibition is much more than just displays of guitars and autographed albums. Through the extensive research conducted and scripted by the Smithsonian Institution curators, it tells the story of how people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds broke through social barriers and racial prejudice to create America’s unique musical genres. They have not only shaped a city’s profile, but they have changed the world’s cultural complexion forever.