Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum, the Smithsonian Institution partnership dedicated to telling the city's historic contribution to music and culture, will relocate to FedExForum and open when the new downtown arena is complete in fall 2004.
The Museum will build a showcase exhibit on the Third Avenue South side of FedExForum — the Highway 61 stretch of road better known as "Blues Highway" by the many legendary musicians who traveled it through the Delta to play on Beale Street.
Rock 'n' Soul will move the museum from its 8,800-square-foot home at the Gibson Guitar Showcase into more than 10,000 square feet at FedExForum. The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum will have a 25-year lease (at a rate of $10 per year) with the Memphis Grizzlies, which has the management contract for FedExForum. Rock 'n' Soul will continue to operate at Gibson until new space at the arena is complete.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has agreed to the relocation. "Rock 'n' Soul: Social Crossroads" opened April 29, 2000, the first Smithsonian partnership developed outside of Washington, D.C. The museum mixes artifacts, sounds, film and photography in a century-long retrospective on the roots, cultural influences and evolution of music that had a global impact.
In establishing the museum, the Smithsonian stated the importance of such an exhibit, "In the quest to identify the roots of America's music, all roads led to Memphis."
"The roots of modern music begin in Memphis," said museum board member Charlie Ryan. "Our city has had a dramatic impact on music and culture on an international level, and the Rock 'n' Soul Museum is a tremendous showcase to share that special history with the world. We're excited to move to FedExForum because it will elevate the museum's profile, increase our attendance and extend our story to people who want to learn about America's rich musical history."
"The Grizzlies are excited to welcome Rock 'n' Soul into FedExForum," said Mike Golub, senior vice president of business operations for the Memphis Grizzlies. "FedExForum is going to be the entertainment center of the Mid- South. Rock 'n' Soul will be a significant feature in the arena, making it a year-round facility with visitors attending 360 days a year. Visitors to FedExForum will find an arena that is uniquely Memphis, from the architecture to the theme. Memphis is known for its rich musical heritage and music will be a major theme in the new arena. Rock 'n' Soul is a perfect fit for FedExForum."
No public funds approved for construction of FedExForum will be used for the Rock 'n' Soul museum. Construction and relocation costs are being funded by private sources. City of Memphis and Shelby County government project representatives and the New Memphis Arena Public Building Authority (PBA) have approved the move. The PBA today accepted escrow funds in the amount of $1,138,108 from Memphis Rock 'n' Soul to fund construction of the museum's core and shell. That amount will pay for the only phase of museum work that will be performed by FedExForum's contractor.
Rock 'n' Soul will hire its own architects and planners to finish the space and relocate the museum, at an additional cost estimated at $700,000 to $900,000.
The Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum has become an important international destination. Over the past 2 1/2 years, the museum has attracted more than 150,000 visitors from 50 U.S. States and 6,200 cities from 62 foreign countries. The Rock 'n' Soul tour program is scripted in six languages.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. (R-Tennessee), a member of the Smithsonian Institution's Board of Regents, assisted the relocation. "The music of Memphis and the Delta has had a profound impact on people and cultures across the globe. The Rock 'n' Soul Museum in Memphis and the Smithsonian Institution have formed a creative partnership to share this distinct history with the world. The museum is certain to become another Memphis landmark honoring the rich history of the Delta."
U.S. Rep. Harold Ford (D-Memphis) said, "The Rock 'n' Soul Museum is a great community asset that poignantly articulates the role Memphis has played in creating music that has impacted American culture. The exhibit at FedExForum gives visitors and local citizens alike the opportunity to learn about the city's rich music history."