WWII at the Museum

In the fall of 1940, war was underway in Europe, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted the first peacetime draft in American history. In November 1940, the Museum Advisory Board received a request to make space available in the Memphis Museum (now called the Pink Palace) for Draft Board #12. The Draft Board moved into the Mineral Room and the minerals moved to the mammal hall or were placed in storage. Thousands of Memphis’ men came through the museum as the National Archives estimates that 26,764 individuals enlisted for military and civilian service in Memphis throughout the war.
The museum also became a place for other wartime activities. Beginning in May 1942, first aid classes were held for three hours every morning. Civilian defense instruction was conducted each afternoon. Classes continued through August 1942. In December 1942, the city Board of Education cancelled all evening meetings in school buildings for the duration of the war. The Buntyn-Normal Civic Club moved their monthly meeting to the museum because their normal venue was no longer available.

mansion color sketch
The museum also became a place to show artifacts and objects that were relevant to the global conflict. The Park Commission installed a flag pole on the museum lawn in November 1942. Everett Woods, the chairman of the Advisory Board, suggested creating an exhibit of minerals used for national defense purposes. Ernest Ball, superintendent of the Memphis City Schools, donated 37 model war planes built by students to government specifications. Two other model planes, a B-25 Billy Mitchell Bomber and a Curtiss P-40, were also loaned. The museum held a lecture on the use of carrier pigeons in war. In early 1945, the museum exhibited “victory trophies” including German uniforms, parachutes and money collected by American troops in Europe.

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