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Nashville: From mastodons to muskets

In an inconspicuous building in downtown Nashville, the Tennessee State Museum holds thousands of the most interesting artifacts from the state’s past.

“We cover about 16,000 years,” said Jim Hoobler, the museum’s senior curator of art and architecture. “We start with prehistory and people coming across the land bridge to the New World.”

The museum’s collection begins with mastodon fossils found in the area and includes many artifacts from early human life in the region, including primitive stone weapons, tools and agricultural instruments.

One of the most interesting exhibits deals with European exploration of the area and Tennessee’s later role in westward expansion. Items on display range from a flintlock musket that belonged to Daniel Boone to an 18th-century dugout canoe and an 1832 dulcimer that is believed to be the oldest in Tennessee.

“We have a Conestoga wagon that actually went all the way out to Texas and came back,” Hoobler said.

Other major exhibitions include a look at plantation life and slavery in Antebellum Tennessee and a collection of artifacts and information from Civil War battles that took place in the state.

On the lighter side, the museum features an extensive collection of Tennessee furniture, including a complete parlor set made in the state in the early 1800s.

For more on Nashville:

An American icon
Tune that fiddle!
From mastodons to muskets
WEB EXCLUSIVES! Two more Nashville icons

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.