Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Pink Palace Museum of Memphis

St Louis has a really world class collection of museums, but the one thing we don't have is a true Natural History Museum. We were very jealous of the Pink Palace when we visited Memphis last year. Built as the intended residence of Clarence Saunders, founder of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain, it was never completed. Saunders went bankrupt after loosing "an epic stock exchange battle", according to the sign, and the property was purchased by developers, who then donated it to the city of Memphis, to be used as a municipal museum. The museum is actually much, MUCH bigger than it looks in that photo, thanks to some really ingenious architecture.

The Pink Palace has an amazing collection of fossils and skeletons, many interesting exhibits about the history of Memphis, an IMAX and planetarium, even a replica of the original Piggly Wiggly store, and yet, not one Memphian recommended it to us! Memphis, your Pink Palace is freaking amazing! You have a T-Rex! And a narwhal horn!

They have skeletons of all types, and we much admired their statement in support of evolution. What we found most interesting is that even thought Memphis is only 285 miles from St Louis, they used to be ocean, while we were land. They get entirely different fossils when they dig up the land for new highways!

You want more dinosaurs? If you are a St Louis dinosaur nut, you will weep at the amount of prehistoric fossils. My impression is that Memphis does not fully appreciate how lucky they are to have dinosaurs like this to look at when they have small children who are going through the dinosaur phase.

The one small comfort was that their animatronic T-Rex and Triceratops are smaller than the ones at the St Louis Science Center. But then they took that comfort away with this ginormous dilophosaurus. Curses!

 They even have a nearby (90 miles) fossil dig site called Coon Creek Science Center. I didn't get to go on a field trip like that until I took archaeology (of Missouri) in college!

While the Pink Palace does have a totally awesome natural history section, the museum as a whole is kind of like a cabinet of curiosities. The second coolest thing after the dinosaurs is the Clyde Parke Circus, a massive, miniature, animated circus made up of thousands figures hand carved by Clyde Parke over a span of 30 years.

In the mirrors underneath, you can see all the cables and pulleys that run the parades and acrobats.

Unfortunately, it is very old and fragile at this point and is only rarely operational. It wasn't running at all when we were there, and the Pink Palace website says it is not currently operational.

Here's a parade float that was actually too big and bulky to stay on the track. If I recall correctly, it's an Anthony & Cleopatra float.

There is much, much more to the museum, but the rest of my photos are from the Enchanted Forest Festival of Trees, which raises money for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital during the holiday season. The trees are decorated by local businesses for a competion, and the Enchanted Forest is a department store display from Goldsmith's, much like the old Santaland we St Louisans remember from the downtown Famous-Barr.

The Pink Palace Museum is located at 3050 Central Ave in Memphis, TN, and admission rates vary.

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