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Nashville opens museum memorializing history of Black music

Nashville opens museum memorializing history of Black music
© Jason Kempin/Getty Images

The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville opened to the public over the weekend, giving visitors a look into the history of Black artists from musical genres ranging from blues and jazz to hip hop and rock 'n' roll. 

The museum, which debuted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18, officially opened its doors on Saturday with a mission of “preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans,” according to the museum’s website

“We’re not focusing on one genre of music or one type of artist, we’re really taking a look at what was the impact on African Americans once they entered the country, and how did that birth what we know now as Black music,” museum spokeswoman Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson told NBC News

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According to NBC, the museum currently has on display more than 1,500 artifacts, objects, memorabilia and clothing tied to more than 50 genres and subgenres of music. Some of the most notable pieces include Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, a Grammy award belonging to legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and a kimono worn by singer, songwriter and pianist Alicia Keys.

According to its website, the museum has been in development since 2002 when members of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce first proposed it as “as a way to celebrate and preserve the influence African Americans have had on music.”

Dina Bennett, an ethnomusicologist and the museum’s curatorial director, told CNN that the Nashville museum marks the first one that "has actually laid out the experience of African Americans in the creation of these musical traditions that spanned from the 1600s, when the first Africans were brought to the US as enslaved peoples, to the present day.” 

"Often the story lines of music and of these songs deal with social justice, the quest for freedom and the social quest for equality, for a better life," museum President and CEO Henry Beecher Hicks told CNN. "Those kinds of messages are nothing new. And they really are a core element of the story that we tell."

Those interested in visiting the museum can purchase tickets online, with scheduled tours starting every half hour throughout the day. The national museum will only be open on Saturdays and Sundays through the month of February.