Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Opened in 1967, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum refers to itself as "custodians" for preserving, celebrating, and sharing the culture of country music. The Country Music Hall of Fame, called the "Smithsonian of country music," is the top tourist attraction in the city of Nashville. The current museum opened in 2001 and unveiled a $100 million expansion in 2014. The 350,000 square foot building holds galleries, archives, retail stores, space for events, and the Taylor Swift Education Center. The CMA Theater and Ford Theater often play host to live music and award shows. Guests can take guided tours or self-guided tours of the Museum's galleries and the Hall of Fame Rotunda that features legends such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Garth Brooks, and many others. In addition to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, visitors may also visit the legendary Hatch Show Print shop and the Historic RCA Studio B.
The Country Music Hall of Fame. The windows appear as piano keys and the tower is a replica of the famous WSM radio tower in South Nashville. When viewed from the air, the building resembles a bass clef.
The Rotunda in the Country Music Hall of Fame
"The Sources of Country Music" by Thomas Hart Benton, 1975, Which Hangs in the Rotunda
The Original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Located in East Nashville
Plaques Featuring Hall of Fame Members in the Rotunda
Archival Items that Belonged to Singers Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold are Featured in the Museum Exhibits
Wall of Records Inside the Museum
The CMA Theater
Backstory and Context
The Country Music Association (CMA) first devised the idea of a Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1961. The CMA realized the need of a site to house their growing collection and to tell the story of the history of country music. After the initial fundraising stages, the cornerstone ceremony for the Museum took place on March 16, 1966, and it opened the following year on the corner of 16th Avenue South and Division Street. The Walkway of the Stars, a series of stars featuring prominent artists’ names, graced the entrance and lobby of the Museum. Since 1964, the Hall of Fame and Museum has been operated by the nonprofit Country Music Foundation.
Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, and Fred Rose were the first to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961; all three were inducted posthumously. The first living artist to be inducted was Roy Acuff in 1962. The inductees are annually selected by a panel of industry executives chosen by superior officials. Originally, those inducted into the Hall of Fame were honored with bronze plaques that hung in the Tennessee State Museum, but since 1967, these have been on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The plaques are currently featured in the grand Hall of Fame Rotunda.
Also seen in the Rotunda is Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Sources of Country Music,” the last piece of art ever done by Benton. In 1975, two years after beginning the painting, Benton went out to his studio to attempt to complete the painting and sign it. Unfortunately, the 84-year-old artist died of a heart attack before doing so. “The Sources of Country Music” has hung in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum since 1975, unsigned and unfinished.
In 1987, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum earned accreditation from the American Alliance Museums. Thirteen years later, after more than thirty years of growing its collection and size, the Museum closed down for a year as their new building, located in the heart of Nashville, was completed. In 2014, the Hall of Fame and Museum underwent a $100 million expansion, doubling its footprint downtown and bringing in a record number of visitors.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Moving Image Collection contains over 30,000 moving images on a variety of film, video, and digital formats. The Collection boasts an equally massive audio archive that dates back to pre-World War II, and an artifacts collection featuring over 800 stage costumes and 600 musical instruments. There are also many historical and iconic vehicles here on location. These include Elvis’s 1960 “Solid Gold” Cadillac and Webb Pierce’s 1962 Pontiac Bonneville.
Throughout the Museum, visitors can see numerous exhibits, such as “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music,” which takes visitors through the journey of country music. In addition to the rotating exhibits that can be seen in the Museum, there is also the Taylor Swift Education Center, the Hatch Show Print shop, and a gift shop. The Hall of Fame also offers daily tours of the historic RCA Studio B, where famous country artists Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, and many others once recorded. As one of the largest museums in the country, and one of the most visited sites in “Music City,” the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum prides itself on being the leading custodian of country music’s rich history.
About Us, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Accessed August 30th 2021. https://countrymusichalloffame.org/about/.
Boston, Josh. The Story Behind Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Sources of Country Music”, Flatland KC. September 17th 2019. Accessed August 30th 2021. https://www.flatlandkc.org/arts-culture/the-story-behind-thomas-hart-bentons-the-sources-of-country-music/.
Thompson, Gayle. 54 Years Ago: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Opens, The Boot. April 1st 2021. Accessed August 30th 2021. https://theboot.com/country-music-hall-of-fame-and-museum-opening-day-history/.
Coffey, Caitlin. Go inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, WKRN. November 10th 2020. Accessed September 1st 2021. https://www.wkrn.com/news/cma-awards/go-inside-the-country-music-hall-of-fame-and-museum/.
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