With facility construction and exhibit fabrications winding down at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, the new venue will open its doors for the first time this fall. The attraction has been in development for more than 20 years.
The 56,000-square-foot museum is one of a kind, upholding a mission to educate, preserve, and celebrate more than 50 music genres and styles that were created and inspired by Black Americans. Galleries will focus on spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, and hip hop, sharing narratives and perspectives through state-of-the-art technology as well as memorabilia, clothing, and artifacts. Exhibits will all convey how a distinct group of people used their artistry to impact American music and change the world, according to the museum’s website.
One of the exhibits, titled “One Nation Under a Groove,” tells of the blending of gospel, jazz, and blues to create R&B, a sound that emerged after World War II. Soul, funk, and disco are a few of the categories of music that were born from the movement, which made quite a noise during times of cultural and political change in America.
The Wade in the Water gallery throws time back a little farther; it chronicles the history and influence of religious music—from indigenous African songs that were kept alive during slavery to the formation of Black American spirituals and hymns. It also covers the Golden Age of Gospel—from the 1940s through the 1960s—as well as the overall influence gospel has had on secular and new religious music.
The museum also will have a research library, which will serve as a resource center for visitors to do their own studies of African American music history.
Museum staff members have looked ahead and put in place some procedures and guidelines to keep themselves and the public safe in the midst of the pandemic. They’re currently operating with several people working from home, and the construction team is also working with reduced staff. They’re aiming to stay on schedule with the grand opening, and in the interim, their artifact collection is safely stored away at NTA-member Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. All youth and adult public programs have been suspended to align with closures at Metro Nashville Public Schools, but the museum is evaluating digital delivery options to maintain connection with the community.
Top photo: Fifth & Broadway rendering of National Museum of African American Music
Photo by NMAAM