The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee is home to one of the world’s most extensive musical collections. First opened in 1967, and in 2001 at their new Downtown location, The Country Music Hall of Fame upholds their mission to collect, preserve, and interpret the evolving history and traditions of country music. Through exhibits, publications, and educational programs, the Museum teaches its diverse audiences about the enduring beauty and cultural importance of country music.
I literally felt like I was taking a step inside Ken Burn’s History of Country Music (which I highly recommend) as I walked through the exhibits. The museum was so full of stories and artifacts that any Country Music lover could easily spend the whole day immersed in the museum and still not see everything.
The Museum itself is huge, taking up half a city block, and rightfully so to exhibit all of their country music memorabilia. Not only is the location a Museum, it is also considered a non-profit educational organization. Home to the Museum’s award-winning educational programs, the Taylor Swift Education Center offers hands-on experiences connected to the museum’s content. The Education Center has three classrooms, a videoconference lab, an interactive gallery, dedicated to creating an exciting learning environment for all ages.
The Country Music Hall of Fame also houses the Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest working letterpresses. Hatch Show Print’s posters served as a leading advertising medium for Southern entertainment and music, printing posters for members of the Grand Ole Opry such as Bill Monroe, Minnie Pearl, and Ernest Tubb, as well as rock & roll artists such as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and more.
You can also take a tour off site on Nashville’s Music Row of Historic RCA Studio B, known as the birthplace for the “Nashville Sound.” This style helped establish Nashville as an international recording center. You’ll be able to stand right where country music greats recorded hits, and hear the stories born in this historically important studio.
Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music is the Museum’s permanent exhibition. It holds artifacts, photographs, sound recordings, archival videos, and interactive touchscreens. The exhibit immerses visitors in the history of country music, from folk roots to present day, including its origins, traditions, and those who have contributed to its expression.
Sing Me Back Home has the following select artifacts on display: Minnie Pearl’s hat, Elvis Presley’s gold-plated Cadillac, Webb Pierce’s Nudie Mobile, the Hee Haw Cornfield, Johnny Cash’s suit, Dolly Parton’s dress, and Smokey and the Bandit ll Pontiac Trans Am.
Each year, new exhibitions launch, like the annually updated American Currents: State of the Music, which documents the events and lives of that year’s most significant artists. The featured artists of 2023 were: Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen, Cody Johnson, Wynonna, Ashley McBryde, HARDY, Shania Twain, Sierra Farrell, Lainey Wilson, Luke Combs, Ashley Gorley, Amanda Shires, Miranda Lambert, Billy Strings, and Eric Church.
Another featured exhibition is Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock. The exhibit highlights the rise of artists like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt and many others. In the 1960s and ’70s, these artists found success with sounds that merged rock & roll with country and bluegrass, creating ‘country-rock.’
In the Museum’s Hall of Fame Rotunda, you can find inducted members on bronze plaques, suspended on a metal framework arrangement symbolizing notes on a musical staff to the tune of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” There are currently 152 inductees, with the newest being displayed next to “Sources of Country Music”, artist Thomas Hart Benton’s final painting before passing away.
Depending on which experience you are going for and how much you want to see, you can purchase different ticket packages ranging in price from $30 to $74. Different tours include the Museum, the Hatch Show Print Tour, or the Historic RCA Studio B Tour. For country music lovers young and old, The Country Music Hall of Fame is the mecca of all there is to know about the past, present, and future of country music.