Libraries and Museums

Founded in 1904, the Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County operates a central library downtown and 18 neighborhood branches. With a total of 262,800 book titles and 781,800 volumes, the library serves a population of more than half a million and employs a staff of 248. It has special collections in the subject areas of business, Nashville genealogy and history, children's literature, drama, and oral history.

Although Nashville has several art collections, none is actually housed in a building designed as a museum (a downtown museum building is in the planning stages, however). The Cheekwood Museum of Art, in the Depression-era Cheek Mansion, displays a permanent collection of American art and a variety of temporary exhibits. Nashville's full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, built in the 1920s to replace the temporary version erected for the 1897 centennial celebrations, houses the Cowan Collection of paintings by American artists and other artifacts. Yet another non-traditional venue for art exhibits is Nashville International Airport, where the works of regional artists are showcased in the terminal's atrium, as well as in the airport's halls and lobbies. These include large suspended sculptures and Dale Eldred's "Airport Sun Project," an installation of solar reflecting panels. Art collections are also housed in galleries at Vanderbilt University and Fisk University.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum traces the history of country music in a colorful variety of exhibits that include musical instruments and other artifacts, videos, and such unique items as a gold Cadillac that belonged to Elvis Presley. The Grand Ole Opry Museum focuses on performers associated with this famed performance venue. The Lotz House Museum is dedicated to the Civil War (1861–1865), and the Hartzler-Towner Multi-cultural Museum displays artifacts that highlight cultures around the world. Other museums include the Cumberland Science Museum, the Museum of Tobacco Art and History, the Nashville Toy Museum, and the Tennessee State Museum.