Nashville’s much discussed — but still-not-built — African-American history museum slated for Jefferson Street at Rosa Parks Boulevard has undergone an overhaul to center solely on music.
With the change — now planned as a national museum — comes a new name, additional board leadership, updated structural renderings and a revamped website.
As originally conceived, the museum was to have centered on African-American art, music and culture. However, project leaders have decided to strip away two of those three components after a market research study found 47 percent of respondents revealed a preference toward music alone.
“This celebrates everything from the Fisk Jubilee Singers to Little Richard to Ludacris,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, president of Gray Line Tennessee and chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “It really runs across more than 40 genres of music and covers the history of our country through music.”
The project’s new name is the National Museum of African American Music (it had been the Museum of African American Music, Art and Culture). Those overseeing the project say the museum is still on pace for a late 2013 opening despite the museum’s $47.5 million price tag and the challenges of raising money.
“Museums do cost money,” Hicks said. “We will be responsible and won’t break ground until we’re close enough and we’re ready to do that. We’re at a pretty quiet phase of talking with investors around the city and around the country about the project. We feel we’re making some good progress.”
The commissioned study, according to project leaders, found the museum would generate an estimated 29,000 annual visitors from the Middle Tennessee area and 100,000 yearly visitors overall.
“Nashville is Music City,” Hicks said. “All of us here in town fully embrace that. And so as we over the last couple of years explored the project to determine what the scope and focus would be, in the end it really became apparent that while art and culture are obviously very important, they are fairly broad terms.
“The piece that kept emerging was music,” he said. “Really, what we’re talking about is a national museum that celebrates the contributions African-Americans have made to music.”
In terms of the museum’s “national” title, Hicks said project leaders have initiated conversations with the Washington D.C.-based Smithsonian Institution about the world’s largest museum complex becoming a partner.
“There’s nothing like this in the United States,” he said of the project’s scope. “There’s nothing like this in the world.”
Hicks described what he expects to be an interactive experience for visitors inside the facility’s 16,000 feet of exhibit space. In addition, the building will include an auditorium for live performances.
Hicks said NMAAM would utilize “cutting edge technology,” adding that the hope is to collaborate with other area museums.
As part of the revamped museum concept, leaders have launched a new website at www.nmaam.com
New board members are Gregg Morton, president of Tennessee AT&T; Waverly Crenshaw, partner at Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis LLP; Don Jackson, CEO of Central City Productions; and Bobby Jones, CEO of Bobby Jones Gospel/Visions Production Studio.
Mayor Karl Dean serves as one of two co-chairs of the museum’s community advisory council.