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New Birthplace of Country Music Museum Breaks Ground

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Friends of 1927/BCM/ Bristol VA/TN -- The New Year signals new beginnings for many and that certainly goes for the Birthplace of Country Music®. "On December 21 we closed on construction costs to bring the museum up to exhibit status," reports Becky Littleton, Director of Finance at BCM. That means construction on the 24,000 square foot museum and 100-seat performance venue is in full swing with Bristol-based BurWil Construction Company driving the cranes.

The former Goodpasture Motors Building will also enjoy a "new" address as the City of Bristol, Virginia will rename the small road (currently branching from the intersection of Cumberland/Moore Streets and joining Lee Street), to "Birthplace of Country Music Way".

"Protecting and promoting Bristol's place in American music culture is only one aspect of the Birthplace of Country Music® Museum." says BCM Executive Director Leah Ross. "Educational programming through our affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution and branding Bristol as a music destination year-round are also goals."

"The list of organizations, businesses and contributors who have helped us get here is long, and to them we are grateful."

Birthplace of Country Music Alliance will also begin re-branding efforts, and will go by their registered trademark "Birthplace of Country Music".

"The Birthplace of Country Music will encompass the Museum, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the events we each sponsor and the possibilities we have with our brand," states Birthplace of Country Music Board President John Rainero.

"We not only see this as a great achievement for our organization, but also a great achievement for our region's music, our cultural heritage, and our great cities," says Rainero. "Finally, The Bristol Sessions, - which Johnny Cash called the single most important event in the history of country music - and its legacy, will have a home."

As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, all construction and design of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum will meet the best practices criteria of the American Association of Museums under the guidance of the Smithsonian. This process has already begun with members of the design team and Smithsonian representatives.

Studio MUSarx, under the direction of Joe Nicholson, has been working on exhibit design on the project. Joe was the exhibit designer for the Louisville Slugger Museum and has worked on numerous projects with the Smithsonian Institution. He is working closely with ten local historians, musicologists, and scholars whose primary goal is to be “keepers of the authentic”.

Renowned audio/visual team Hilmann-Carr, who has worked on a number of projects with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress is already at hard at work gathering materials for the creation of a unique, visual experience that will impact the senses. The imagery will be historically correct and include the wonderful music of our region.

Lead architect, Peyton Boyd, is a native Bristolian known for attention to historic preservation and green building practices. He is working closely with Virginia Historic Preservation guidelines to assure we maintain the integrity of the building to their specifications.

Once the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is open, The Weldon Cooper Institute at the University of Virginia estimates a five-year economic impact of $49 million to our region. They estimate 75,000 visitors to the Museum annually, in turn generating tax revenue for our cities and patrons for our businesses.

The economic impact of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum has already begun. Two months ago the Birthplace of Country Music created twelve jobs putting a team together of local experts and historians, led by Jessica Turner of Virginia Intermont College. Ted Olson of East Tennessee State University's Center for Appalachian Studies, former BCMA Executive Director Bill Hartley, and others, have been working along side designers from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to tell our region's story.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will be a dynamic experience of the senses. It will be a celebration of our past, an emersion of our history and future. Travelling exhibits from the Smithsonian and its affiliates will be shown on a rotating basis in a space designed specifically for this purpose. Permanent exhibits will be largely interactive and designed to appeal to all ages.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in traditional music lessons that will be available in our educational spaces and participate in Smithsonian internships right here in Bristol.

A 100-seat performance theatre will allow lectures and seminars to be offered by performers and scholars, and it will provide an unmatched place for live music with the ability to record and broadcast from The Birthplace.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum we will include educational outreach programs designed to demonstrate the relationship between music and faith, family, art, business and technology and expand on our mission to celebrate our rich musical heritage.

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum would not be possible without the cooperation of our city governments, our legislators, our city leaders, and partnerships with local organizations. It is also necessary to thank Birthplace of Country Music and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion staff and board members - both past and present - for their perseverance and endless hard work. It is also important to thank Steve Johnson for his generous donation of the former Goodpasture Motors Building for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

"This trip has taken longer than the two flat tires and the creek fordings that the Carters had to endure on their way to Bristol in 1927," Rainero quoted, "sometimes good things happen to those who wait. Bristol, our time is now!"

Birthplace of Country Music® Museum, slated to open August 2014, will extend the music corridor across the state of Tennessee from Memphis, through Nashville and Knoxville and bringing it home to Bristol before travelling The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Music Trail.

Read the Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 Bristol Herald Courier article here.

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