Fifty-six years ago today (April 1, 1967) was a big day for country music and the genre’s fans: It was on that date that the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Nashville, Tenn.
The Country Music Association (CMA) originally established the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 and spent six years planning and building the museum before it officially opened on Music Row. The Hall of Fame quickly became a destination for not only tourists but also Music City locals, who came to view artifacts from their favorite country music artists, past and present, including photographs, instruments, documents, clothing and even vehicles.
As more and more country music artists and artists’ families made items available to the Country Music Hall of Fame for display, the museum underwent several expansions to house all of the memorabilia; eventually, however, it was necessary to relocate to a larger space. In 2000, the Hall of Fame permanently shut its doors at its original location and prepared to open in rapidly growing downtown Nashville.
In 2001, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum officially moved to 222 5th Ave. South, in the heart of Music City, where it still resides; the expansion gave the museum 130,000 square feet of space, and the Hall of Fame continued to grow into one of Nashville’s top tourist destinations.
However, even as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s number of visitors steadily increased, there came a time of sorrow: In 2010, a flood devastated several Nashville landmarks, including the Hall of Fame. More than five feet of water flooded the museum’s mechanical room, and there was some damage to the Hall of Fame’s beloved Ford Theater as well.
Fortunately, the Country Music Hall of Fame was soon open and welcoming visitors once again — and planning another expansion. In 2014, the museum expanded to more than 350,000 square feet; the increased space allowed for more than 10,000 additional feet of exhibit space, extra event and retail space and more archives and library room as well.
In addition to its revolving exhibits, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum boasts the Taylor Swift Education Center; Hatch Show Print’s printing operations and store; nearly 200,000 sound recordings, including an estimated 98 percent of all pre-World War II commercially released country recordings; approximately 500,000 photographs; more than 30,000 moving images on film, video and digital formats; and an ever-growing collection of artifacts from artists whose careers span the last several decades.
Perhaps the most prestigious honor that a country music artist can be given is to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose and Hank Williams were part of the Hall of Fame’s first class, inducted on Nov. 3, 1961, all posthumously. Throughout the years since, dozens more artists have been inducted, including Randy Travis, Ray Price, Conway Twitty, Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings, the Oak Ridge Boys, George Strait, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, among others.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame — including admission prices and hours of operation — is available on the Hall of Fame’s website.