America’s music: Nashville’s newest museum spreads the gospel of country music

America’s music: Nashville’s newest museum spreads the gospel of country music – Brief Article

Angela Wibking

Nashville, Tennessee, has another country music star on its hands-but this one doesn’t play a guitar or wear a cowboy hat. The city’s hottest musical celebrity is the 34-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which recently moved into a glittering new $37-million home.

The museum covers an entire city block in the heart of Music City’s vibrant downtown entertainment district and incorporates traditional symbols like musical notes into its strikingly modern design. Soaring 107 feet above a park, the state-of-the-art museum is located on the west bank of the Cumberland River, just a few steps from the historic Ryman Auditorium (“Mother Church” of country music) and the authentic honky-tonks of Lower Broadway.

The 130,000-square-foot facility boasts four theaters, lots of interactive displays, a radio broadcast booth, and even a dance floor. There are also soundproof booths where visitors can listen to and learn about landmark country artists and songs, computer stations that allow children to design their own country music stage costumes, and live musical performances throughout the day. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a terrific museum shop and a restaurant serving up Southern “comfort” food like barbecue, fried chicken, and biscuits with gravy.

After a 25-minute orientation film, visitors begin the museum tour itself, starting with exhibits on the top floor and continuing down over the next two levels. They walk through the “Roots” section first and discover the pre-commercial era of country music, dating to the 1800s. Some of today’s biggest country music stars serve as virtual “tour guides,” appearing on giant video screens that drop down from the ceiling. While visitors view artifacts relating to the Carter Family (an early country music group), for example, they’ll also see a current star like Alan Jackson talking about the Carters on screen.

A key feature of the museum’s design is its glass-walled central core. As visitors walk around this glass “building-within-a-building,” they can see audio engineers inside working on early recordings or costume experts restoring vintage Grand Ole Opry outfits. Moving on through exhibits on the third floor and to ones in the gallery below, guests learn about country music from the 1940s to the 1970s through another short film, more artifact displays, and the Interactive Arcade, where they can hear rare recordings from the museum’s collection and access photographs from its archives. Colorful artifacts range from Webb Pierce’s silver dollar-studded convertible to Dolly Parton’s sequin-covered wardrobe. Next, museum-goers learn how the contemporary country music scene has unfolded from the 1970s to the present day through exhibits and a film that covers the life of superstar Tim McGraw on the road and at home.

Finally, visitors walk over a 600-foot bridge, where they learn about the 74 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and how individuals and groups are selected to receive the ultimate award in country music. Then they enter the Hall of Fame itself, a cathedral-like rotunda where the bronze likenesses of the greatest figures in country music are enshrined. A ring of windows encircles the room, shedding a warm natural light on the faces of these musical legends, from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Fans usually grow silent here as they reflect on the contributions of their favorite stars, both past and present. If you listen hard enough, though, you might just hear a honky-tonk angel singing.

–Angela Wibking

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; open until 10 p.m. Thursdays. The museum store is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Single-day admission is $14.95 for adults; $7.95 children age 6-15; under age 6 free. Two-day admission is $24.95 adults; $12.95 children. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

For more information, call (800) 852-6437 or (615) 415-2001, visit the web site at www.countrymusichalloffame. com, or write to 225 Fifth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203.

COPYRIGHT 2001 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group