About us

We are Open: Thursday - Saturday 11:00AM to 4:00PM
Admission $7 for 12 years and up. $3 for 4-11 years. Under 4 is free

The Earth Experience, the Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History, is the first natural history museum in Middle Tennessee. The museum has displays from all over the world but has a very large number of items from Tennessee. Come see our dinosaurs, fossils, gems, minerals, rocks and archeological relics.

This is not your typical natural history museum! We have an interactive, dynamic museum where visitors will not only see ongoing research and activities they will be offered chances to participate. Visitors will see a working paleontology laboratory where they will see real dinosaur bones cleaned and repaired. A molding and casting operation will be making dinosaur displays as well as the souvenirs for sale in the gift shop. The Mid Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society offers workshops on jewelry making in the museum.

The current location for the museum is just the first step to creating one of the top Natural History Museums in the world. Current collections could already fill 5 times the present space and the collection grows almost every day. Also the museum has an active dig program and every summer collects more dinosaur bones in Montana.

Museum Directors

Alan Brown

Executive director

Alan has always loved museums, growing up in central Illinois he would often visit the museums in Chicago. His favorite was the Field Museum of Natural History, although his early fondest memories of the museum were the archeology displays and not the dinosaurs. When he went to college and became a Geology major his interest was rekindled. He received a Bachelor's of Science in Geology from Illinois State University. He took all the classes available in Paleontology and considered pursuing a master's degree in Paleontology but decided to stay and get a Master's of Science in Hydrogeology because the job market looked much better. He worked for 8 years in the environmental consulting business. While traveling for work he would visit Natural History museums around the country and he collected fossils when he could. In 2006 he took a job teaching Introduction to Earth Science classes at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). MTSU had a small mineral museum, which later closed, and he volunteered there, giving tours and making displays. Around this time he joined the Middle Tennessee Gem and Mineral society and met Lewis Elrod and they often talked about how much they wanted to have a Natural History Museum in middle Tennessee. Mr. Brown also volunteered at the now closed Highlands Prehistoric Center in Cookeville, TN. There he met Jerry Jacene who invited him to come dig dinosaurs in Montana. The trip Montana was a pivotal moment and he promised himself that he would return to Montana every year for the rest of his life. In 2012 Mr. Brown went to Lewis and said "if we want a natural history museum we are going to have to do it ourselves." To which Lewis replied "I have been hoping you would say that, let's do it." In 2014 Earth Experience – The Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History opened its doors.

Lewis (1938-2016) & Anna Elrod

Lewis Elrod's lifelong passion for collecting minerals and fossils was matched only by his enthusiasm for sharing his interests with others. Anna, his wife, supported Lewis in his collecting of minerals for more than 40 years.

Lewis was eight years old when he first began his collection with crinoid stems (Indian money) that he found while visiting relatives in Oklahoma. He kept these fossils in an old coffee can. In college, Lewis enrolled in a craft class in which he cut and polished a blue tiger eye gemstone and several other pieces he had collected. After he and Anna married, Lewis began making jewelry for her and, with her help, began acquiring interesting and unusual minerals found both locally and worldwide. Their collection gradually grew from a few crinoid fossils in a small tin can to a barn full of boxes of minerals collected over the years. Lewis founded the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society in Murfreesboro in 1978 and served as the club's first president. While looking for ways to build public interest in the club and hobby, he became aware of the beautiful minerals found at the Elmwood Mine in Carthage. He contacted the mine operator and was loaned several nice specimens to show at club meetings. He was fascinated by these beautiful minerals and began extensive research about them. He also began acquiring many specimens from Elmwood to add to his personal collection. Some of his Elmwood and other specimens are on display here in the museum.

Lewis had always dreamed of starting a natural history museum. His dream took shape in 2012 when he and Alan Brown founded "Earth Experience the Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History." Shortly after the museum moved into its current facility in early 2014, Lewis and Anna purchased an unassembled cast of the Fort Peck T. rex dinosaur skeleton. The museum opened to the public in September 2014 and their T. rex dinosaur went on display in October 2015. Lewis was the first president and chairman of the board of the Middle Tennessee Museum of Natural History. Lewis passed away in 2016.

The museum's "Hall of Minerals" is named after Lewis and Anna in honor of their dedication to and passion for sharing their love of natural history with the residents of Middle Tennessee.

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