The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the world’s largest and most active popular music research centers and the world’s largest repository of country music artifacts. Early in the 1960s, as the Country Music Association’s campaign to publicize country music was shifting into high gear, CMA leaders determined that a new organization was needed to operate a country music museum and to carry out research and education activities beyond CMA’s scope as a trade organization.
Toward this end, the nonprofit Country Music Foundation (CMF) was chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964 to collect, preserve, and publicize information and artifacts relating to the history of country music. Through CMF, industry leaders raised money to build the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened on April 1, 1967. Located at the head of Music Row, the museum was erected on the site of a small Nashville city park. At this point, artifacts began to be displayed and a small library was begun in a loft above one of the museum’s galleries.
Early in the 1970s the basement of the museum building was partially complete, and library expansion began, embracing not only recordings but also books and periodicals, sheet music and songbooks, photographs, business documents, and other materials. At the outset, CMA staff had run the museum, but by 1972 the museum (already governed by its own independent board of directors) acquired its own small staff, which has steadily increased to over 150 full-time professionals.
Building expansion took place in 1974, 1977, and 1984 to store and display the museum’s growing collection of costumes, films, historic cars, musical instruments, and other artifacts. An education department was created to conduct ongoing programs with Middle Tennessee schools, an oral history program was begun, and a publications department was launched to handle books, as well as the Journal of Country Music.