Location: Savannah, Tennessee
General Description: The Tennessee River Museum is located in downtown Savannah, Tennessee and houses a unique collection of artifacts about the history of the Tennessee River Valley. Exhibits include ancient paleontology, historic Indian archeology, early pioneers into the area, the tragic Trail of Tears, the Civil war on the river and at Shiloh, the golden age of steamboats, and the abundance of freshwater mussels and industries that harvest them.
1) They have an amazing collection of fossils from millions of years ago, including some large pieces of petrified wood outside the museum, as well as, a huge collection of Indian arrowheads and tools. This alone is worth the low price of admission.
2) The information that provide about the ironclads and monitors during the Civil War also had some surprises. For instance, they have a picture of small rafts used to float single mortars that would be very hard to hit from shore batteries.
3) The exhibit on the golden age of steamboats was also interesting, especially since it only lasted for about 20 years before railroads took over the business. They certainly had some fancy steamboats taking passengers and cargo up and down the river. I especially found it interesting that most of the traffic was during the winter when the northern rivers, like the Ohio, would freeze. Unfortunately, most of the audio programs they have throughout the museum were old and needed some serious work. Of course the noise from their spring cleaning and repairs to the ceiling that were going on while we were there did not help.
4) Finally their exhibit on the freshwater mussel industry, both past and current, was interesting. I did not know that the mussels in the Tennessee River was the primary source of shell buttons that were all the rage before plastic buttons proved to much cheaper to manufacture.