Metal Museum awarded $198k federal grant to take stock of vast collection

The Metal Museum was recently awarded a $198,051 Museums for America matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to conduct its first inventory of its object collection.

The Metal Museum was one of 120 projects nationwide funded through the Museums for America grant program in 2022 and the only project funded in Tennessee.

The cataloging of an estimated 3,000 objects, which includes works of art and sculpture representing a broad spectrum of metalwork such as contemporary hollowware, sculpture, and studio jewelry created by artist metalsmiths, comes as the Museum prepares for an expansion to Rust Hall in Overton Park by 2025.

While the collection focuses on artists and artworks from the post-Craft Revival period (the 1970s to present day), it also includes historic objects dating back to the Renaissance.

As resources have become available to the Museum over the past several years, smaller sub-collections have been cataloged, inventoried, and digitized. Activities to complete a full inventory of the collection were reprioritized in 2018 as the Museum began to consider an expansion to a new facility.

“This collections project was always part of our overarching plan for expansion,” Metal Museum Executive Director Carissa Hussong explained. “A new space gives us the ability to showcase more objects from the permanent collection with regularity, which ultimately provides audiences with a deeper understanding of the rich history of metalworking and its place in our culture.”

The three-year project will be divided into three phases. The first phase is the inventory of the collection, including hiring a Collections Assistant. This newly created role will inventory all items, documenting each item’s condition, completing minor research as needed, and photographing and cataloging items for the second project phase–rehousing and moving the collection. The third and final phase will include the moving, unpacking, and organization of objects in Rust Hall in Overton Park.

Collections Assistant Laura Hutchison Bhatti is tasked with tackling this large-scale project.

“This is exciting work for me to undertake,” said Bhatti, who earned her Ph.D. in Classics and Classical Archaeology from Johns Hopkins University. “The Metal Museum is a living organism, active and reactive. I am able to have a conversation with living history, quite literally, as this research calls on me to interview artists and others to mark the institutional memory of this unique place.”

According to Bhatti, the rediscovery of objects that have been in storage for years is one of the most thrilling aspects of the project. In addition to updating collections records that will eventually be made accessible to the public, Bhatti plans to share more about the findings on the Museum’s blog and through its social media in the coming months.

As a result of this project and with an understanding of the full extent of the collection, the Metal Museum will be able to better serve its constituency of artists, curators, scholars, researchers, and museum visitors through digitally accessible online records and in permanent and rotating gallery spaces in the Metal Museum in Overton Park.

This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant MA-251669-OMS-22.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. They advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Their vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit

About the Metal Museum

The Metal Museum is the only institution in the United States devoted exclusively to the preservation, promotion, and advancement of the art and craft of fine metalwork. This mission is achieved through four primary program areas – exhibitions, collections, studio practice, and community education and engagement. Programs are facilitated on the Museum grounds and at locations across the Mid-South. Located on 3.2 acres of historic property overlooking the Mississippi River, the Museum grounds include the main Museum building as well as the Metalworking Facilities, Library + Resource Center, and private artist residences. Learn more about the Museum and its programs by visiting

The Museum receives operating support from ArtsMemphis and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Programming support is received from Hyde Family Foundations, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and hundreds of corporate, foundation, and individual supporters.

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