NMAAM holds “sneak peek” of museum artifacts

(l-r) Dr. Bobby Jones – coat, Sammy Davis, Jr. – suit, Nat King Cole – argyle sweater, Dorothy Dandridge – grey formal dress w sash, Whitney Houston – leopard print dress, Lisa Lopes Outfit & sneakers

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) recently held a special viewing of some of the artifacts they have been accumulating in advance of the Museum’s opening scheduled for late next year. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHoF) is working closely with the new museum, and hosted the event on Tuesday, August 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in their Design Gallery for select media outlets to share with their readers and viewers. The PRIDE was among the fewer than a dozen media outlets invited.

Several staff members from NMAAM and CMHoF participated in the program, and each attending outlet was given a personal half-hour tour and informal talk. The lead spokesperson for the media day was the new NMAAM senior curator Dr. Dina Bennett, who has a background in museums as well as a PhD in ethnomusicology from Indiana University.

“We’re pleased to be here today with a sneak peek at a few of our current artifacts we’ve collected,” said Dr. Bennett. “First, I need to thank the Country Music Hall of Fame. They’ve allowed us to store our artifacts here until our space is ready. We couldn’t do this without them. We’re even sharing equipment to scan, upload and securely store these so they can be preserved for future generations.

“I really want to emphasize how important these artifacts are for our mission. We’re a museum that’s traveling the country and using our contacts in Nashville and elsewhere to collect and preserve these important pieces. Once we’re open, we’ll have rotating exhibits and artifacts, but the majority of our exhibits will contain pieces that we own. That means these pieces are not sitting in someone’s private home or for sale online; they’re preserved for future generations right here at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.

“As the construction team is hard at work building the museum, our team has been focused on collecting the pieces we’ll need to make NMAAM a captivating experience. We’ve already collected more than 800 artifacts.”

Also participating were NMAAM staffers Dionne Lucas, director of marketing and communications; Kim Lannear, communications manager; and Marquita Reed, collections manager; along with Brenda Colladay, vice-president of museum services for CMHoF. Also helping out were these staffers from McNeely, Pigott & Fox: Ben Baden, Will Krugman, Sarah Hun-Blackwell, Evan Wofford, Ian Dinkins, and Kelly McGahee. When completed the National Museum of African American Music will join the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum along Nashville’s Fifth Avenue of the Arts.

THE ARTIFACTS (Artist name – Item description. Donor name & info. Artist info)

Lisa Lopes, member of TLC – Long hooded jacket, bodysuit, shorts and high-top sneakers. Donation from family of Henry Hicks, president and CEO of NMAAM. Known by her stage name  Left Eye, was a  hip-hop  singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer best known as one-third of the R&B girl group  TLC, alongside  Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins  and  Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

Kirk Whalum’s saxophone case w international travel stickers.

Kirk Whalum – Saxophone and case with touring stickers. Donation in May 2017 from Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and recording artist in May 2017. Born in Memphis, he toured with  Whitney Houston  for more than seven years, and soloed on her single “I Will Always Love You,” the  best-selling single  by a female artist in music history. Stickers on the saxophone case indicate Whalum’s travels and illustrate the global reach of jazz music.

Dr. Bobby Jones – Suit clothing, photographs and awards. Donated by local gospel legend and television host Dr. Bobby Jones as a part of a larger collection of photographs, awards and clothing. Born in Henry County, Tennessee, Jones was host and executive producer of several cable television gospel music programs, including the former “Bobby Jones Gospel,” which went off the air in 2015.

Whitney Houston – Leopard Print Dress by Christian Dior. Donated by sister-in-law Pat Houston of Celebrity Consignment Boutique. As Houston’s manager, she booked and managed the Whitney Houston 2010 “Nothing But Love Tour.” Singer, actress, model Houston is one of the best-selling music artists of all-time, with 200 million records sold worldwide. She released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold by the  Recording Industry Association of America  (RIAA).

Nat King Cole – Argyle sweater. Donated by Dr. Beverly Richards as a part of a larger Beverly Richards collection. Dr. Richards is the owner and curator of the A Cinema Apart Collection, which includes African American film memorabilia from the 1920s through 1950s. The collection is composed of actual films, movie posters, lobby cards, photographs, ephemera and personal items of the stars. Dr. Richards travels nationally and internationally to lecture, exhibit and show race films to institutions and organizations. Nat King Cole was a jazz pianist and vocalist best known for his soft baritone voice, and smooth and well-articulated vocal style on popular singles like “The Christmas Song,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Nature Boy.”

Sammy Davis Jr. – Three-piece (jacket, vest, pants) tweed suit. Also Donated by Dr. Beverly Richards as a part of a larger Beverly Richards collection. Davis (nicknamed “Mister Show Business”) was a singer, musician, dancer, actor and comedian who began his career at the age of 3, in vaudeville  with his father,  Sammy Davis Sr.,  and the  Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally. With the trio, he became a recording artist.

Dorothy Dandridge – Formal dress with sash. Also Donated by Dr. Beverly Richards as a part of a larger Beverly Richards collection. Dandridge is perhaps one of the most famous  African American  actresses to have a successful  Hollywood  career and the first African American actress to be nominated for an  Academy Award for Best Actress  for her performance in the title role of the 1954 film “Carmen Jones.” She is the subject of the 1999  HBO  biographical film “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” with Hallie Berry starring as Dandridge.

Paul Robeson ‘Emperor Jones’ original 1933 film poster.

Paul Robeson – Original poster from 1933 “Emperor Jones” film featuring actor Paul Robeson as lead character Emperor Jones. Also Donated by Dr. Beverly Richards as a part of a larger Beverly Richards collection. “Emperor Jones” is an adaptation of a 1920 play by American  dramatist  Eugene O’Neill. It tells the tale of Brutus Jones, a resourceful, self-assured  African American  and a former  Pullman porter. Jones kills another black man in a dice game, is jailed, and later escapes to a small, backward Caribbean island where he sets himself up as emperor. The play recounts his story in flashbacks as he makes his way through the jungle in an attempt to escape former subjects who have rebelled against him. Robeson was an acclaimed 20th-century actor, singer, performer known for productions like “Emperor Jones” and “Othello” and his iconic rendition of “Old Man River.” He was also an international activist.

Traditional African Drum of the Dan People.

The Dan people of the Ivory Coast – Traditional African Instrument – Traditional African drum. Donated by Mr. William Darrell Moseley in 2016 who purchased it in 2008 from Osman Berete, an itinerant African trader. The anthropomorphic (having human characteristics) form of this drum is rather unusual. This hand-carved drum has a Dan origin, because of its scarification marks on the breast. The Dan people of the Ivory Coast on the continent of Africa are prolific carvers, especially well-known for their masks.