Mural Move at the Pink Palace

Recently, the Pink Palace Collections and Exhibits departments moved three of the museum’s largest artifacts. The Burton Callicott murals have hung over the grand staircase in the mansion lobby since 1934 when Callicott was commissioned as part of the Public Works of Art Project. The museum’s advisory board wanted the option of removing the paintings if they did not like them, so Callicott painted the three scenes on canvas instead of directly to the wall. The murals hung until 1995 when they were removed for extensive conservation. After the restoration, the conservators returned the murals to the museum rolled, and staff restretched the canvases and added frames on the floor of the lobby before rehanging them.

Construction for the new mansion exhibits is scheduled to begin in January 2017, and the murals needed to be moved out of the mansion for their protection. The 2016 mural move was the first time the murals were removed from the wall and relocated while stretched and framed, which presented a number of challenges. Each panel is almost 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide and also permeated with wax making the two largest panels weigh about 250 pounds each. From the scaffolding, we removed the screws attaching the frame to the wall and lifted the paintings off their blocks and onto the ground. The staircase landing is uneven, so custom blocks were cut to keep the paintings level.

Once we removed the center painting from the wall, we moved it to the far left, and three people held it in place with the help of a small arm attached to the wall for support. While they supported the painting, others removed the center scaffolding. Next, we moved the painting to the middle of the staircase, lifted it on the rim of the landing, and lowered it to the floor with two people in a man lift to support the top of the painting. For the next two paintings, we moved each to the center, reinstalled the back center scaffolding, attached straps to the supports, and lowered the panels at an angle to the floor with the people in the man lift supporting the bottom of the paintings.

Getting the paintings down to the floor was only part of the process. The murals are being stored in our on-site storage area until construction is complete. The challenge is that there is no simple way to move the murals from the mansion lobby into storage. Using dollies, we walked the paintings horizontally through the mansion, across the mezzanine, down the main staircase, through the museum ticketing lobby, down the hallway by the planetarium and through the rollup doors into storage. Once there, we stood the paintings back vertically and lifted them using straps onto shelves built along the outer wall of the second and third floors.

The move took 10 hours, three levels of scaffolding, 11 staff members with hands on the painting, 5 safety harnesses and one telescoping man lift. The murals and all staff arrived at the end of the move safely.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico is the Supervisor of Exhibits and Graphics Services. She has a master’s degree in history from The University of Memphis, and she helped move the murals by doing exactly what the preparator and conservator said.



Pink Palace Mansion 3.0

Plans are moving ahead for our renovation of the Pink Palace mansion. The Mansion was built in the 1920s and has undergone a series of re-imaginings in its long life. It started as Clarence Saunders’ palatial home that was meant to be a Southern showplace. Saunders lost his house before it was completed, and it was deeded to the City of Memphis to be used as a museum. The Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts opened in 1930 with exhibits throughout the rooms. The early museum directors lived in the mansion, and by the 1970s offices, education classrooms, live animals, exhibits and collections storage crowded the space. The mansion closed to the public when the new exhibition building opened in the late 1970s. It reopened in the 1990s with exhibits about the changing roles of women, Cotton Carnival, Memphis immigrants and museum treasures.

Earlier this month the Collections and Exhibits departments took all of the artifacts out of the mansion exhibits. Each artifact removed from display was condition reported, which means that staff made notes of all damage and imperfections, and rehoused in storage. A few artifacts were put in new temporary homes throughout the museum. You can visit the shrunken head in the museum lobby, and the polar bear is in the bones exhibit on the first floor of the museum. Moving the polar bear was one of the more difficult feats, and you can watch an edited video of the move.

In January construction begins in the mansion. The country store, Piggly Wiggly and circus exhibits will be moving into the mansion. There will also be new exhibits about the Cossitt Museum, which was Memphis’s first museum, Clarence Saunders, the history of the museum, and the Burton Callicott murals. Visitors will be able to walk up the grand staircase in the lobby, and there will be a new elevator with access to the second floor exhibits. Some staff offices will also be moving to the second floor, and there will be new rooms to support special events.

Construction is expected to take an estimated eighteen months.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico is the Supervisor of Exhibits and Graphics Services. She has a master’s degree in history from The University of Memphis, and her favorite artifacts are the Cold War civil defense supplies.


Spooky Space!

In October my thoughts always turn to things dark and spooky. Maybe it is because I see the greatest changes toward the darkness of the coming winter. I find myself often resetting my light timers earlier each day. The sun sets earlier but it also rises later and so it seems unfair that the alarm now gets me up in total darkness. To our ancestors it was a time of fear. This year we find the moon is new on October 30 and so this Halloween night will be extra dark with no moon to light our way.

Looking up, astronomers have found many objects whose images remind us of “things that go bump in the night.” There are the Ghost Head and Witch’s Head nebulae. The Witch’s Broom is a part of a wispy gas cloud called the Veil nebula in Cygnus and many people see shapes like the wings of bats in something called “the Wizard nebula” in the constellation Cepheus.

But most frightening of all is something that lies deep in the hearts of galaxies. There you will find a monster beyond compare. So black it is that it cannot be seen, so powerful that even light cannot escape its clutches. Yet as it feeds its voracious appetite on remnants of stars and planets some material gets squeezed and energized so that it shoots the crumbs away in powerful beams of accelerated particles. It is a Black Hole. Find out more about them daily in our full-dome digital planetarium show Black Holes narrated by John de Lancie.

Dave Maness

Planetarium Supervisor

AutoZone Dome at the Sharpe Planetarium


Search Our Collection!


The Memphis Pink Palace Museum has roughly 84,000 objects in our collection, of which 10-15% are on display. That means that there are tens of thousands of objects that regular visitors could not access. Tammy Braithwaite, our collections registrar, is in charge of keeping track of all of these artifacts. Over the past year, she has worked to get our collections database available online so that all our visitors can view the objects that we preserve. You can visit our website to look through our collection. New items are frequently being added as we continue photographing the collection. If you click on a specific record, you will be able to see other pictures of many of the objects.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

In the cultural history collection, try searching for sports, World War II, Cotton Carnival or silk.

For the natural history collection, look for birds.

Please enjoy exploring our collection!


Our Panel Boot Victoria

Pink Palace carriage 1970 (3)In 1967, Patterson Transfer Co. donated the panel boot Victoria carriage displayed at the exit of the Memphis history gallery. The Brewster Carriage Company built the vehicle in 1902, and sold it new for $1,300 ( roughly $30,000 in today’s currency). Our panel boot Victoria was owned by Robert E. Galloway, the president of Patterson Transfer.

Don Berkebile from the Smithsonian Institution came to Memphis in November 1967 to examine the Victoria and the wagonette and stagecoach that Patterson Transfer Co. also donated. He noted that the panel boot Victoria was “an excellent example of its type in sound condition and certainly worth of restoration.” Gordon Elston, the museum preparator, directed the restoration, which included stripping the paint, applying original type finish, reupholstering the broadcloth, replacing the leather convertible top, replacing the patent leather dash, seat railing and trim, and constructing new fenders. In total, it took over two years to get the carriage ready for permanent display.

A general rule in preserving artifacts is to move them as little as possible. This guideline exists because every time something moves, there is a risk of damage. Nevertheless, there are many times when relocating artifacts is necessary. They must get into the museum, be placed in storage, gotten out for conservation, and positioned in cases. For the majority of the artifacts in the Pink Palace’s collection, it is a simple matter of putting the object on a cart and wheeling it to a new site. However, the carriage needed a different approach. If it was donated to the museum today, it would be brought by a truck to the loading dock, moved to the second floor on the freight elevator and wheeled to the gallery. However, the carriage was delivered to the museum in April 1970.

In 1970, the entire museum was housed in the Pink Palace mansion with the exhibits located on the first and second floors. Since there was no freight elevator, the front doors were the only way staff could bring objects inside. In fact, the difficulty of getting large objects into the museum was one of the reasons given for constructing a new museum building. The panel boot Victoria just eked through the opening and never made it much past the doors. Once it was inside, staff members displayed it in front of the large mirror in the mansion lobby where it stayed until it moved to the second floor of the new museum building that opened in 1977.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and the picture of the carriage going through the mansion’s front door is one of her favorite photographs.


The Golf Courses of Clarence Saunders

lnc golfClarence Saunders was a golf enthusiast. When he made his first fortune by founding the Piggly Wiggly self-service grocery store, Saunders joined the Memphis Country Club. He would bet on games and tip his caddies well. Part of the plans for his palatial Cla-Le-Clare (Pink Palace) estate included an eighteen-hole golf course with a curving lake. One of the holes was to be on an island that required players to take a boat across the water. Of course, Saunders lost the property in his battle with Wall Street speculators which left him bankrupt. His golf course eventually became Chickasaw Gardens subdivision with the lake as a public park.

Never one to be out for long, Saunders made a second fortune with his “Clarence Saunders, Sole Owner of My Name” grocery stores. With his new money in hand, he set out to build a second millionaire’s playground. He purchased three hundred acres of land outside of Memphis near Germantown in 1928 and named the estate Woodland Country Club. Hubert T. McGhee, the architect of the Pink Palace, designed a 7,000 square foot log cabin for the property. In addition to a 20 acre lake, swimming pool, boat house with observation deck and servants quarters, Saunders built another 18-hole golf course on the land where St. Francis Hospital currently sits. The par 75 course was 7,200 yards in length making it the longest one in the world at the time of its construction. Saunders opened the course for public play in 1931 and shortened the course to 7,011 yards while making it a par 72. He closed the course to women on Saturday and Sunday mornings “to oblige the men.” Three holes on the course played over the lake. The fourth hole was a par five, which stretched 610 yards along Park Avenue. Saunders often paid golf pros to play with him and give him advice. While he was not a particularly good golfer, often scoring in the mid to high 80s, he was passionate about the game.

Saunders, falling victim to the Great Depression, lost his second fortune and Woodland in 1938. Baseball star “Memphis Bill” Terry bought the property and converted the golf course into pasture for his dairy cows. Ultimately, 65 acres of the former playground became Lichterman Nature Center.

Information from articles “Clarence Saunders Opens Golf Course” and “The Clarence Saunders Legacy,” Jeff Glasgow, Mid-South Golfer, March 1995.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and she enjoys digging through the museum’s archives.


Memphis’ Most Versatile Art Collector

Louis Phillip Wulff has the honor of being the Memphis Museum’s (Pink Palace’s) most frequent donor. Wulff was a professional interior designer and a world traveler. He was also a painter who served on the museum’s Advisory Board from 1934-5 and 1950-6. His broad interests led him to collect documents, fighting equipment, stamps and natural history specimen. Additionally, Wulff was an amateur archaeologist who collected hundreds of Native American artifacts from the Mid-South.

Wulff was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and moved to a farm in Nebraska when he was 6. According to a newspaper biography, he went to sea as a cabin boy when he was 12 and returned home two years later. He was known for taking off on trains or horseback to go on collecting expeditions. His collecting habit got substantially broader when he received an inheritance from his mother. At 22, he took his new bride on an extended honeymoon and returned home with a sizable number of artifacts from around the world.

Initially, Wulff leant items from his personal collections to the new Memphis Museum, which opened in 1930 with sparse exhibits. From 1931-1951, he loaned bird eggs, lithographs, marine specimen, Roman coins, Audubon bird prints, Native American artifacts, decorative arts pieces and more. In May 1951, he decided to permanently donate 650 of his loaned artifacts. He also gave his collections to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Brooks Museum of Art, Southwestern (Rhodes College) and the Cossitt Library.

Museum director Ruth Bush said that his objects “were scattered more or less in places [all] over the Museum.” At one point, she mentioned to him that she would like to have a flamingo. On a trip to Haiti, he sent her a letter saying that he had picked up a stuffed one for her. Since the law forbade him from shipping the bird to the United States, he decided to cut his trip short and bring it back on the plane with him. He also had a habit of loaning objects to the museum and then coming in to remove some things from cases and replace them with different objects. Mrs. Bush found that to be “a little bit upsetting, but we put up with it because he was so nice.”


Quotes from an oral history interview done with Ruth Bush on November 5, 1983.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and she enjoys reading the museum’s old newspaper scrapbooks.