We are living in extraordinary times right now, making many feel unsettled and anxious as we face a host of uncertainties. For me, music often acts as a balm to troubled thoughts and worries, and so while the museum is closed and we are all working to protect each other, we wanted to share a variety of ways that you can experience the Birthplace of Country Music at home by connecting with us through music, stories, activities, and history!
While our DJs aren’t able to come into the studio for live broadcasts, we are still sharing new segments of most of our Radio Bristol programs via the dial at 100.1FM, our smartphone app, and the website. Radio Bristol is the perfect place to get your music and history fix. We’ve got daily shows like Early Morning Americana and On the Sunny Side; shows focused on regional music such as Old Kentucky Bound, Appalachian Travels, and Born in the Mountain; shows that delve into different musical genres such as Grass Cuttin’ Time, Folk Yeah!, Transmissions Under the Wire, and Hillbilly Wonderland; shows that share deep dives into music history and Appalachian tales like Mountain Song and Story, Ozark Highlands Radio, and Sound Sessions from Smithsonian Folkways; Radio Bristol’s old-fashioned radio variety show Farm and Fun Time via the Farm and Fun Time Noon Show and Farm and Fun Time Weekly; and more. For a full list of Radio Bristol offerings, including archived shows, check out this link and start listening – you are sure to find your musical nirvana!
Listen While I Tell
The BCM blog – Listen While I Tell: From Bristol’s Birthplace of Country Music & Beyond – is a great place to explore BCM’s work and content further. Sharing several posts each month, the blog brings you behind-the-scenes views into the work that we do each day at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival, and Radio Bristol; content-driven stories related to early country music history; features on instruments and musicians; and explorations of the continuing music traditions in this region. For instance, you can check out our “Instrument Interviews” where different and sometimes famous instruments are asked 10 interview-style questions. Or perhaps you want to learn more about some of the artists who performed in Bristol in 1927. You can find out about our DJs’ favorite songs, albums, and musicians through “Pick 5” or “Off the Record,” or hear stories from our annual music festival. We also dig deep into our collections with our “From the Vault” posts, share insights into exhibit content and educational programming, and sometimes just look at some quirkier things. Check out the blog today – and feel free to let us know if there’s a topic you’d like to see us cover in the future!
Obviously, the best way to engage with the museum’s content is to come through our doors and spend time in the permanent exhibits. However, when that’s not possible, we wanted to be sure that people had the chance to learn more about the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the history we celebrate – and so we have created a series of content-focused videos that share short introductions into aspects of that history, enough to whet your appetite for visiting us in the future! You can check these out on the BCM YouTube channel or as they are released onto our social media pages. We are also in the process of creating some virtual content related to our current special exhibit – Real Folk: Passing on Trades & Traditions Through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program – which opened only two weeks before the museum closed due to COVID-19. We hope to have that ready that soon!
Educational and Fun Activities
Along with the content-focused videos, we’ve also started sharing educational and fun resources on our website. We have downloadable coloring sheets and activities, along with videos of a mini banjo-making craft and 78 record trivia. Check out this link to access these. And keep checking back as we hope to share more puzzles, coloring sheets, and other fun items in the future.
Radio Bristol Book Club
Each fourth Thursday of the month, four readers from the museum and the Bristol Public Library come together for a live on-air conversation about a book that ties into the museum’s content, regional and wider music heritage, and Appalachian culture and stories. Since the Radio Bristol Book Club started in 2019, we’ve read children’s and adult books, fiction and non-fiction, and all of the discussions have dug deep into the themes and questions raised in the books, the author’s style and voice, how it connects to our community or our own histories, and more. Each episode also includes related music, and we sometimes also get the chance to talk to the author! You can access several of our previous book club shows here, and we invite you to start reading with us and listen in to future shows, including Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam Jr. (April 23), Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument by Allen St. John (May 28), Halfway to the Sky by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (June 24), and Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock (July 23), to name just a few of the next book picks.
As a music organization, we are able to share some wonderful performances via our YouTube channel. Over the past few years, we’ve uploaded a whole host of videos of artists and bands who have performed at the museum, on Radio Bristol, and at our festival and other venues. You can access these performances here. We are also sharing Quarantine Sessions – while Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion is still months away, festival artists are getting together to contribute music for these special performances. You can view the videos on our YouTube channel, and subscribe and share from there! And our downtown partner Believe in Bristol is also sharing Facebook Live performances from a variety of local and regional favorites via their Border Bash Social Distancing Series. These are just another way music is bringing us all together during this time of uncertainty. Don’t forget to support these hardworking and talented artists by buying their CDs and merchandise online.
Be sure to connect with us on social media for daily content from all three branches of the organization – the museum, festival, and radio station are all active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All of our platforms are great places to learn about “this day in country music,” the legacy of Bristol Sessions and related musicians, early links to many of our other online resources, and more.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and as such, we want to honor that connection by sharing just a few of the free digital resources that are available through the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Learning Lab has a whole host of distance learning opportunities. Our personal favorite is their Smithsonian Learning Activities Choice Board, which provides several fun and educational activities related to science, social studies, culture, and the arts. There is a new issue released each week – check out Issue 3 to find one of our contributions, a songwriting mad lib, in the culture section! Another great resource is the National Museum of American History’s O Say Can You See blog, filled with great reads about American history and the amazing items and stories found in the Smithsonian collections. The Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, has created several “collections” via the Learning Lab that explore history, art, life, and culture through the African American lens. And while you’re stuck at home, it’s a great chance to grow your very own flowers and vegetables – Smithsonian Gardens has some classroom resources that can help.
Not being open to visitors is a strange experience for us – we miss welcoming the public through our doors to explore the museum’s exhibits, participate in our public programs, enjoy live performances, and more. While we are closed, we are committed to sharing great online content with you, a little respite from the day-to-day uncertainties. We hope that it brings a smile to your face and that you learn something new – if so, please share with your friends and networks and give us a “like.” That will give US a smile! And in the meantime, thank you for being an important part of the Birthplace of Country Music community.
A special thanks to the many museums out there creating amazing digital content while their doors are closed, especially the Field Museum whose “Experience the Field at Home” inspired this blog post.