This Memphis craft art and design art institution, dedicated to the collection, exhibition, and preservation of fine metalwork, opened in 1979. The site was formerly a part of the U.S. Marine Hospital, which dated to the late nineteenth century with several new buildings constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the mid-1930s. The gallery building was the nurses' dormitory, and the adjacent duplex was housing for doctors and their families. The west duplex now provides housing for the museum director while the east duplex is a guest house for artists and consultants for the museum and other area nonprofit agencies. The white building, located at the northeast section of the property, was built in 1870 and later was a center for yellow fever research. During the 1930s construction, this building was moved to its existing site.
The Schering-Plough Smithy, completed and dedicated in 1986, is a site for metalworking demonstrations for visitors, classes for area residents, and workshops for metalsmithing students and professionals. Staff metalsmiths also undertake a variety of special projects and commissions and have completed assignments ranging from the barbecue trophies for Memphis in May to the restoration of the Graceland Gates to the lion sculptures from the Memphis Zoo. Director Jim Wallace is considered one of the state's leading metalsmiths. The smithy contains a state-of-the-art laboratory for metals conservation and restoration. The lab, also funded by Schering-Plough, provides conservation services for private collectors and other museums and offers training opportunities for metalsmiths interested in careers in the field of conservation.
The Riverbluff Pavilion, overlooking the Mississippi, is constructed of castings salvaged from a nineteenth-century building that stood on historic Beale Street. Richard Quinnell of England designed the Anniversary Gates. The scroll and rosette components were contributed by over 180 metalsmiths from eighteen nations.
The museum's library has grown to include over two thousand volumes, ten thousand slides, and manufacturers' catalogues, periodicals on metalworking, videotapes and drawings. The museum's collections now number some three thousand objects.