The Pink Palace Mansion opened as the Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts in March of 1930. The first exhibits came from the Rainey collection of North American game animals and stuffed fish. They were soon supplemented by the Boshart collection of 800 taxidermied birds and artifacts from the Cossitt Library. The collections grew as interested Memphians donated decorative artifacts and specimens from around the world. These included dolls whose history is a mystery, a mastodon jawbone, a lock of President Andrew Jackson's hair, Mississippi River Valley Indian pottery and even the unforgettable shrunken head of an Ecuadorian Indian, complete with the recipe for shrinking.
Another favorite is the polar bear that guards the entry hall of the Pink Palace mansion. It was collected by Dr. Howard S. Misner from the ice of the Chukchi Sea.
In 1927 Memphis' mayor led a drive to buy a silver service for use on the cruiser U.S.S. Memphis. In 1946 the U.S.S. Memphis was decommissioned and the Memphis silver was returned and given to the Pink Palace.
And there's even a little Clarence Saunders here. Although he built the Pink Palace as a home, he never lived here. Now, antiques from his personal collection are represented with his blunderbuss, dagger and antler-handled knife. The Pink Palace mansion was to be their original home…they finally made it here in 1942.
This room symbolizes the very word "museum" to generations of Memphians-a place where you could look at lots of stuff. These objects were exhibited in the original Pink Palace Museum before 1977. Although not the finest artifacts in the Museum's collection, they are among the best loved and most remembered.