The National Museum of African American Music opened its first exhibit this week — in a way that was different than expected. After a fifteen-year struggle to build a physical museum in Nashville, the organization is starting with a digital project called "Rivers of Rhythm."
Work began in the year 2000, and the museum’s theme has evolved. Even its planned location has moved. CEO Beecher Hicks says he considers the digital exhibit to be like a ribbon-cutting for the museum.
“So this application, this exhibition, is a way of demonstrating that to people and they can see that it’s all of our story. It’s the story of American music. And so we can do that and can demonstrate that today, even though the museum is about two years away from opening,” Hicks said.
The website is like a musical family tree. It does highlight some white performers but it explains which African-American artists inspired them. For example, Amy Winehouse’s page shows she was influenced by Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige.
The money to create this digital platform came from Belmont University, as part of its effort to add diversity to its famed music program.
Organizers say construction of the physical museum is still on track. The space is part of a redevelopment plan for the city’s old convention center. But that project has been behind schedule.
The digital platform can be accessed here.