Happy Martin Luther King Day, I Wish Photos Were Allowed at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis

Martin Luther King JrI haven’t been blogging much because I’m on an intensive 5 day shoot covering Nashville and Memphis as part of my project to document the 100 largest U.S. cities. I’ve been posting brief sporadic notes on my trip here.

I’ve been trying to get a good perspective and sense for what both Nashville and Memphis are about by shooting all of the major tourist destinations, as well as a lot of lesser known but interesting subjects as well (like an abandoned Federal prison in Tennessee or the Tennessee Music Valley wax museum). I got into Memphis yesterday, and in addition to shooting the Brooks Museum and Graceland (both of which have excellent open photography policies) shot some amazing blues musicians playing on Beale Street last night.

Overall my experience with shooting in Nashville and Memphis has been very positive. All of the live music venues here seem to have no problem with photography. Even the Grand Ole Opry, perhaps the biggest act in the state, allows photography (I got some great shots of Carrie Underwood and Emmylou Harris on Saturday night).

It’s going to take me a while to get all of these shots processed once I get back as I’m horribly behind on my photo processing.

But I was disappointed this morning to learn that the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis (which is housed in the motel building where Dr. King was assassinated at) that I was going to visit this morning does not allow photography. From their website:

Cameras and Video: Photography and videotaping inside the Museum is prohibited. All cameras should be checked in with Security before entering the exhibits. Media must be credentialed 48 hours in advance and requests should be forwarded to the Office of Marketing and Communication at (901) 521-9699, ext. 292.

I can think of very few things more important to document than the Civil Rights movement in America. It is disappointing to me that the museum would prohibit photos there and prohibit people from sharing information about this movement online and as broadly across the world as possible. It looks like I will only be getting a shot of the outside of the museum today.

Of all the museums that don’t allow photography that I am aware of, this is one of the ones that I think makes the least sense. Hopefully someday they will reconsider this backwards policy and realize that allowing people to take photos there is a big part of publicizing the history and message of civil rights to the world at large.

Happy Martin Luther King Day to everyone!

6 Replies to “Happy Martin Luther King Day, I Wish Photos Were Allowed at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis”

  1. Hi Thomas,

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  2. As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing these images. I’ve been a long time somewhat of an Elvis fan. But mostly it’ll be interesting to see what Memphis looks like from your perspective. I’ll bet you got some awesome photographs.

  3. Hi Thomas: How can I get in touch with you? I am a journalist and wanted to find out more about your $2 portrait project with a view to possibly writing about it. Please email me when you have a minute. Thank you. Tracey

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