The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange has announced plans to expand into a 1,650-square-foot space on the ground floor of the Cotton Exchange Building at Front and Union, contiguous to the museum's main exhibit hall.

Two agribusinesses and Cotton Incorporated have agreed to sponsor the contemporary-themed permanent exhibit for the space. In addition, the new space will house a classroom where students at all grade levels can experience the history of cotton first-hand.

Work on the new exhibit and classroom space is under way and slated for completion by September 2009. Simultaneously, the museum is developing a grade-level specific education program targeted to local elementary, middle and high school students.

“With this expansion, we're dramatically enhancing our ability to fulfill our educational role within the community. We'll be able to accommodate more student groups and to enrich their learning experience at the museum,” says Calvin Turley, the museum's founder and president. “The history of cotton commerce — from field to fabric — is inextricably tied to the history of this region. Our mission is to share that history with the broader community.”

The new exhibit will enable museum visitors to explore the history of cotton farming from a 21st century perspective and it incorporates three key elements — advances in biotechnology, mechanization and environmental sustainability.

“Those are the stories that we haven't told in the museum,” said Memphis videographer Willie Bearden, who produced the Cotton Museum's videos and oral histories. “We've done a good job of telling the history of cotton, and now we'll be showing how things have changed over the past 75 years.”

“We're excited about partnering with the Cotton Museum, which has done a great job of showcasing the story of cotton and helping connect that story to the museum's guests,” says Dave Rhylander, marketing lead for D&PL. “Pulling from the traditions of Deltapine and the technology of Monsanto, there is a lot of information on the evolution of biotechnology to bring to the exhibit. Advances in crop genetics enhance the economics of cotton growing and enable the introduction of sustainable practices. Recent advances in biotechnology have enabled U.S. producers to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

Case IH will sponsor an exhibit focused on mechanization of the U.S. cotton industry and its impact on planting, cultivating and harvesting — from the earliest days of cotton farming to the present.

“The story of cotton mechanization is a tremendous addition to the museum,” says Trent A. Haggard, cotton marketing and sales team leader for Case IH. “Museum visitors will be able to see first-hand the evolution of equipment and farming practices over the past century.”

Cotton Incorporated will sponsor an exhibit focused on environmental sustainability. “The cotton industry is developing and putting into practice a variety of new technologies, methods and uses for the cotton plant that play a role in reducing the industry's environmental impact and promoting the survival of our planet,” says Kim Kitchings, senior director, Global Product Supply Chain, Cotton Incorporated.”

The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange was founded in 2006 to share the story of the cotton industry and its many influences on daily life, the arts and the development of this region with students, residents and visitors.

Several agribusinesses have lent a hand toward raising funds for the museum. Earnestine's and Hazel's, a popular downtown Memphis bar/restaurant, was the location of a recent fundraiser party and dance held for the Cotton Museum. Several cotton-affiliated companies, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Case purchased tickets for their own employees as well as local cotton producers and consultants.

The Cotton Museum is located in the historic Memphis Cotton Exchange at 65 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tenn.

To learn more about the museum, go to www.memphiscottonmuseum.org.