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Country Music Hall of Fame plans changes

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 – "Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy," originally scheduled to close on Dec. 31, was extended through Dec. 31, 2011.

The museum also announced that its core exhibition, "Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music," is undergoing additions and revisions that will bring the story of country music forward in time and conclude with a glimpse of the future. These changes will be completed in May 2010.

According to Director Kyle Young, Family Tradition has been the most popular and critically acclaimed exhibit in the museum's history. "This is due not only to the family's iconic stature and its influence on generations of artists," he said, "but also because of the participation of the members of the Williams family, each of whom has generously loaned us heirlooms and artifacts, and helped to tell the truest and most complete story about their family to date.

"Because each member of the family agreed to oral history video interviews," Young said, "this is a powerful family saga that weds stark text and intimate family keepsakes to the voices, faces and memories of the family. The result is a dense, powerful and heretofore untold family saga that we know is mesmerizing our visitors. We are grateful for the Williams family generosity that allows us to hold it over." "Hank Williams Jr. graciously taped paid promotional spots for the exhibit, a first for this museum," Young added. "These commercials will begin airing in January 2010."

New artifacts on loan from the family and other sources will be added and completed by March 2010. Educational programming will continue to parse exhibit themes related to matters of family, region, and artistic and cultural influence. These programs will include interviews with and performances by additional family members and by friends, associates and creative legatees.

"Sing Me Back Home's" story of country music will be expanded, brought-up-to-date, and reinvigorated with new exhibits, new themes, new content, a new look and video and audio chosen to deepen visitor understanding of country music history, its connection to other genres and its enduring cultural importance and meaning in the present.

Young said that planning and collecting for the updates and revisions began more than a year ago with a very specific wish list of iconic and emotive artifacts that the institution will need to power the narrative. Although revisions are planned throughout the two block-long gallery spaces, the main focus and new narrative will begin around 1965 and move through five decades including country's collision with mainstream American culture from roughly 1965 to 1971; the new directions of the l970s including country-rock, pop-country, the rise of southern rock and the renaissance of full-strength classic country; and the 1980s contrast between the fashionable "Urban Cowboy" craze and the more lasting values of a new generation of major stars like George Strait, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs and the Judds. The chronological narrative will be punctuated in the second floor gallery's theater, where the broader topic of songs inspired by topical events and social and political issues will be explored using video clips such as Merle Haggard's The Fightin' Side of Me," Loretta Lynn's The Pill," the Dixie Chicks' Goodbye Earl" and Toby Keith's "The Angry American.

On the other side of the theater, the story will resume with the mid-1980s arrival of young artists like Dwight Yoakam, Rosanne Cash, Randy Travis and Steve Earle, and the boom years of the 1990s, when the likes of Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Alan Jackson ruled the charts and dominated the airwaves.

The story will enter the new millennium with new exhibit cases and video screens that reflect the face of country music in the years since the Museum's expanded and modernized facility opened in downtown Nashville's Sobro District in 200l. One case will focus on the contributions of hit-makers like Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. Another new case will celebrate contemporary bluegrass and Americana artists, ranging from Alison Krauss and Del McCoury to Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.

The last of the new cases will be reserved for artifacts and videos that reflect contemporary country's latest trends, events and artists. "This gives us the opportunity to collect and preserve country music history as it is being made," Young said. "It will also function to remind some of our younger visitors that their favorite contemporary artists are linked to the sumptuous and vivid history of country music. This revamping of existing exhibit cases and the addition of new exhibits, media, text, graphics and accompanying programs will mean an entirely new experience for our visitors."

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