Many Elvis fans know the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll never performed outside North America, but that didn’t stop the spread of his global popularity. Across Europe where he maintains superstar status, Elvis fans are now celebrating his long-awaited arrival with a new London exhibition, direct from Graceland in Memphis.
Over 300 artifacts have been pulled from the vast Graceland Archives – and a few from Graceland mansion – to create a retrospective of the king’s career and a unique look into his life at Graceland. If you have ever moved once in your life, you know that packing up 300 items and shipping them to a foreign country is no easy task, especially when sending such precious items, including two classic cars. Such was the task for the talented Graceland Archives team, which rose to the occasion in planning the exhibition along with pulling and packing of artifacts and the painstaking task of installation once in London.
The timeline for exhibition development and installation was accelerated by space availability at a prime London venue, the famous O2, known during the Olympics as the Arena at Greenwich. If there is ever a must-see concert in London, it is always at The O2, which made it the perfect place for a king-sized Elvis exhibition. Twenty-thousand square feet of space at London’s main stage now houses a nine-month run of an amazing exhibition that traces the steps of the Presley family from Tupelo to Memphis all the way through his record-breaking performances in Las Vegas.
Most personal is the Graceland section of the exhibit which features a select few artifacts from the mansion, including a bust of Elvis made by a fan. This artifact has been seen by millions of visitors to Graceland over the years, and while you might miss it if you blink during the mansion tour, it takes center-stage in London sitting in front of a larger than life photo of the living room covering an entire wall. For visitors, this and other artifacts are the closest some will ever come to seeing Graceland. On opening day, one fan that travelled two hours by train to London remarked that her husband who was battling terminal cancer would never make it to Memphis. To them, this exhibit was a dream come true. During what is a difficult time for families, this was a rare, joy-filled day, and it was all because of Elvis.
All of the worrying, weeks of planning and hours of back breaking work are worth it when you witness firsthand the impact Elvis is still having on lives around the world.