Music Museum To Stay In Bristol, Va.
...with Plans to Open Second Museum in Marion, Va.
By DAVID McGEE | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | March 09, 2009*** Published: Feb. 28, 2009 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***
BRISTOL, Va. – Operators of the Mountain Music Museum had planned to pack up their displays and move 45 miles north to Marion, Va.
Instead, they'll only move upstairs to a larger location inside the Bristol Mall, said Tim White, president of the Appalachian Cultural Music Association, which runs the facility.
Some of their regional music artifacts will eventually find their way to a second museum, now scheduled to open later this year inside a former Marion retail store. Adjacent to the Lincoln Theatre, it will operate in conjunction with the association's "Song of the Mountains" concert series.
"The Bristol Mall has always been super to work with. But we just did not have a large enough facility for all the artifacts we have," White said. "And bad things can happen when artifacts are stored. They can get lost, stolen, deteriorate or be damaged."
After being offered the larger space in Marion, White said, the association's board of directors agreed to close the Bristol location and move.
"I went and talked to the mall folks. Before I got home, Heather [Hill] called and offered us a bigger space," White said. "We never wanted to leave Bristol. We just needed more room."
Hill, the mall's marketing manager, said the museum and its affiliated Thursday "Pickin' Porch" musical performances add much to the mall.
"It's a great feature for us to offer customers and visitors who come off the interstate, to showcase this music and Bristol's heritage," Hill said. "We do get a lot of tour buses that stop to eat at Picadilly Cafeteria and they enjoy the museum."
The Thursday shows typically attract crowds of about 200, Hill said.
Had the group closed its Bristol museum, it also likely would have cancelled the live performances, White said.
"If there was no museum in Bristol, there would have been no reason to have events to help operate it," he said. "That was really bothering me, because people who come to that really look forward to it. It's their music medicine."
After some renovation, the museum will be relocated from a 1,200-square-foot spot on the ground floor to the 4,000-square-foot site formerly occupied by Kay-Bee Toys, Hill said. The toy store closed in January.
"They [ACMA] desperately needed the additional space, because they've added retail items like CDs and souvenirs," Hill said. "We're excited about this and glad we were able to work it out."
The new mall location is expected to open in April and the Marion facility will likely open in May or June, White said.
It will mark the third move in the 12 years since the then-Birthplace of Country Music Alliance opened its first museum in the mall.
White and businessman James Bryant opened the original music museum in 1998, shortly after Congress declared the Twin City the Birthplace of Country Music for the 1927 Bristol Sessions – the first commercially successful country recordings.
White, Bryant and other former BCMA members split with that organization in 2006, formed the nonprofit ACMA and changed the name of the collection of old records, photos, musical instruments and other artifacts to the Mountain Music Museum.
In addition to his work in Bristol, White produces "Song of the Mountains," a monthly bluegrass program recorded inside Marion's Lincoln Theatre and broadcast nationally on PBS.
"We're very excited to be able to open another museum in Marion. We're an all-volunteer organization and we have some great volunteers in Marion, just like we do in Bristol," White said.
He also plans to initiate a similar weekly "Pickin' Porch" show in Marion that will be held Tuesday nights. "Once we get them open, I believe the two facilities will complement each other," White said.