“When the museum does an exhibit, they really do it up right,” Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson said in 2021, looking toward the unveiling of his own exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A hitmaker since before the Nashville museum opened its original Music Row location in 1967, Anderson helped cement and expand the country music story, and stands among a select few with the bona fides to confirm a proper rendering.
For the museum, located in the heart of downtown Nashville since 2001, “doing it up right” means a commitment to preserving, protecting and sharing the ever-evolving story of country music. That mission comes alive through expansive exhibitions, music-filled events, educational initiatives and more, hosted inside a 350,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art museum space designed to deliver entertainment and enrichment to music lovers of all ages.
Exhibits at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The museum’s storytelling anchors in its core, permanent exhibition, “Sing Me Back Home: Folk Roots to the Present,” which offers visitors a trip into and beyond the genre’s early development, from its pre-commercial roots to its establishment as an internationally admired art form.
Highlights include sections on “The Dawn of Country Radio” and “Early Country Recordings,” with insights into foundational artists such as DeFord Bailey and the Carter Family, and displays that engage a musical expansion westward, the rise of the “Nashville Sound,” and how country traditions and Beale Street blues mixed into culture-changing energy in Memphis.
The annual exhibit “American Currents: State of the Music” showcases the songs, artists and moments that defined the genre’s previous year, from creative and commercial breakthroughs to cultural flashpoints and multigenerational connections.
“There’s something really cool about seeing everything laid on a physical timeline,” Kacey Musgraves shared at the opening of her exhibit “Kacey Musgraves: All of the Colors,” a temporary exhibit that opened in 2019.
Visitors will encounter a vast, ever-evolving story, told in permanent and rotating exhibitions, which highlight a range of artists and topics. Including displays on veteran songwriters and star singers, world-renowned players and producers, with artifacts ranging from neon lights to beat-up boots, the museum galleries offer a real-life timeline of this American art form.
This museum celebrates all of our lives together, our history and the joy and power of music, Trisha Yearwood shared during a recent visit.
Historical Artifacts at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
For visitors, items on display in the museum’s galleries provide snapshots into culture-changing moments in history – Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5 guitar, played by hands that influenced players across genres and decades; sparkling suits worn by Porter Wagoner, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow, as the indelible “rhinestone cowboy” image rose to prominence; the original, hand-written lyrics to “Me and Bobby McGee," a song that became a touchstone not just in Country Music Hall of Fame member Kris Kristofferson’s songwriting career, but in American music history itself.
The artifacts on view are, however, just part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s vast and growing collection, and the organization’s mission centers in collecting and meticulously protecting those treasured artifacts for the benefit of generations to come.
Events at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
In the Museum’s theaters and the Taylor Swift Education Center, regular public programs, workshops and activities offer a chance to interact with the people behind the music and explore the different ways that music can inspire creativity and learning.
Saturday Songwriter Sessions bring in composers behind some of country music’s biggest hits, who perform live and offer Q&A time with the audience. Family programs and activities take topics explored in exhibitions and translate them into hands-on learning and doing, from introductory instrument workshops to crafting collaborations.
The museum also regularly books ticketed events with Americana, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll and country music legends and headliners, including interviews, performances and star-studded concerts, in its CMA Theater.
Other Attractions Close To the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s galleries and theaters offer a dynamic day on their own, but there’s still more to explore on site and close by to broaden the educational experience.
Hatch Show Print – a Nashville-bred letterpress print shop in operation since 1879 – is located inside the museum, and offers opportunities to shop handmade wares (music posters, apparel, home goods and more) and learn about letterpress printing and Music City history, too.
Daily tours dive into Hatch Show Print’s earliest days, from methods to purpose, and give guests a close look at how the print shop’s establishment intertwined with the rise of country music as a recording, radio and touring powerhouse. The shop’s Haley Gallery offers exhibits of work from visiting and staff artists and restrikes of historic posters, as well as the opportunity to purchase professionally framed (or ready-to-frame) pieces.
Historic RCA Studio B, built in 1957, sits nearby on Music Row, and the museum operates daily tours (with bus transportation) that deliver a listening-rich trip through country music's growth from the 1950s through the 1970s and the evolution of Nashville as Music City.
Artists including the Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley recorded inside the cozy studio, which became known as one of the cradles of the sophisticated “Nashville Sound” in the 1960s. Inside Studio B, visitors hear about storied recording sessions, gain insight into the studio’s distinct sound and get a chance to stand on a taped-off “X” – the exact “sweet spot” where many of those famous vocalists tracked their enduring hits.
New Events and Programs at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
With new events and programs being added weekly and multiple exhibitions opening each year, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is built for repeat visits. The museum’s Traveler Memberships (available for individuals or families) give out-of-state visitors a chance to support its mission to preserve country music’s story and, as with all museum memberships, receive unlimited admission, retail and dining discounts, concert ticket presales and more.
Plan your trip to Nashville to explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum here.