the birthplace of country music museum
Capturing the authenticity and essence of where country music was first recorded has been the fundamental goal in the design of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. On August 1st 2014, this 23,600 sf industrial building-turned museum opened its doors to the public to celebrate a historic occurrence known as the 1927 “Bristol Sessions” in the city of Bristol, VA/TN. According to Johnny Cash, these sessions were “the single most important event in the history of country music.” As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, this AV-infused museum is conceived to recall, preserve, and interpret both the city and the region’s unique musical history.
Throughout the museum, conservation practices are implemented to maintain a sustainable indoor environmental quality. Specialized acoustical engineering, microclimate humidity-controlled showcases, LED lighting, and the use of non-formaldehyde material throughout are features that aim to preserve and display the priceless instruments and artifacts from the Bristol Sessions. Other materials reconnect back with the Bristol narrative with a color palette selection drawing inspiration from American quilt-making and the use of maple, walnut and ash (species commonly used in the production of instruments) amid the museum. With its ties with the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a three-day music festival that draws over 55,000 people annually, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum provides a permanent music museum experience that not only connects with its visitors in an immersive AV-media setting, but strengthens the regional and global influence that Bristol has on music around the world.
The challenge of this adaptive-reuse project lies in how the impact and story of the Bristol Sessions is conveyed to the public. The design team strived for exhibits that deliberately engage visitors in a spatial experience that seamlessly integrate both the building’s industrial architecture with its interpretative exhibits. Initially greeted by a two-story thematic structure, entering guests are immediately captivated by twelve “singing” sound-driven LED graphic panels and two nine-foot diameter records perched on “flying” concrete girders. Featuring clear acrylic beams and heavy-duty spider fittings, this structure hovers through the oval-shaped opening onto the skylight above. As patrons move through the second floor permanent galleries, exhibits are enriched with various mini and wide-angled immersive theaters, interactive touch-screen reader rails, music mixing and listening consoles, and even an enclosed sing-a-long karaoke booth. Highlights also include a holy music chapel recreation that shows the importance of family and religion in the Appalachia, and a live working radio station.