The exhibit halls of The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are well laid out. Visitors can stroll fairly quickly through them, concentrating on the memorabilia donated by favorite stars, or they can work through the museum with much greater deliberation, reading placards, drilling down on eras or individual country artists. Scholars and specialists, of course, have access to much larger archives providing access to the museums huge collections.
Taylor Swift donated $1,000,000 to build the Taylor Swift Education Center, a space which provides activities of interest to young people. The center has classroom space, a hands-on instrument room and ongoing education opportunities.
A special exhibit, recently extended for another year, shows the western musicians who made the Bakersfield Sound developed in California during the late fifties and was made popular largely by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, but influenced country music heavily for more than a generation. Strongly driven by the western movement of farmers forced off their high plains farms in Oklahoma and other states during the dust bowl period of the depression, these artists emerged from the agricultural area surrounding Bakersfield and vied for prominence in country music with Nashville.
Deford Bailey was a longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry, one of the few black performers to perform regularly there. The rarity of minorities in country and bluegrass music, two genres strongly influenced by African American music, remains a blot on the history and current direction of both genres. Bailey was active from 1921 - 1941 when WSM fired him, supposedly because of copyright disputes with BMI-ASCAP. Although he lived until 1982, his career was effectively ended. While active, he frequently played with Bill Monroe.
From archival footage of the earliest country performers playing what is called "old-time" today to the present day new country stars who are, perhaps, more toned down rock and rollers than they are country, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum gives visitors an impressive and thoughtful trip through the world of commercial country as it has moved from being an expression of largely rural musical enjoyment played by plain folks on the back porch to a highly professionalized and produced musical experience for the masses. A visit to the museum can be satisfactory for only a couple of hours or can take a day or more for connoisseurs who wish to study deeply. Scholars and writers can apply to view the archives at even deeper levels. A visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must for people who love the music.