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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Keepers of Memphis history also hurting over COVID-19

Memphis museums, some small businesses are closing temporarily under COVID-19 pressures.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Restaurants and bars are having a hard time during COVID-19 shutdowns, but so are other small businesses in the Bluff City.

Memphis is considered a mid-sized American city, but it has no shortage of places telling stories of the human will solidifying it's place a world class city.

Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, run by Elaine Turner is one of those places.

"They can learn stories of courage, of perseverance, and people overcoming obstacles," said Turner.

Slave Haven brings to life the plight of runaway slaves.

COVID has taught us all something about overcoming like students and virtual learning and the challenges the museum is facing amidst Coronavirus restrictions.

"It has had an economic impact on the museum itself as far as the income we would normally expect at this time of year," said Turner.

Sun Studios, the National Civil Rights Museum, the Blues, Brooks, Metal Museums and more temporarily closing and barely hanging on.

All are tourism attractions, but some of these are small businesses that contribute to Memphis' economic structure.

Revenues from a Graceland Tourism Development Zone fell nearly 51%, from $2,371,898 the previous year to $1,166,782.79 the next.

"We had to adjust our tour schedule with reservations at given times, so that's another adjustment we had to make," said Turner.

Before the pandemic hit Slave Haven could welcome 3 times the number of guests, which meant the adequate number of staff was necessary.

"We did have to downsize our staff during this time because we could not really meet the overhead that was necessary. We have to keep the lights on. We are right now developing a virtual tour that will hopefully be available in the next few weeks where students and people of the nation and the world will be able to see us," said Turner.


"Our international visitors, Memphis visitors, tours from all over the country, we'll be there waiting to share that history when they're able to come."