Don’t Lose Your Good Thing: The Preservation, Interpretation, and Community Engagement of Historic Recorded Music Spaces

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Dahan, Charlie B.
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Middle Tennessee State University
Recorded music transcends being more than mere entertainment and the places of its creation are historically significant deserving of preservation attention and interpretation. While there are federal and well-funded efforts to preserve the sound recordings, no such effort exists for the places of its production. As a result, many sites have been demolished, left to deteriorate, or repurposed into something that does not respect its historic significance and integrity. While recorded music historical sites serve to preserve and interpret the history of American popular culture, within its four walls lies a deeper history that weaves into the fabric of American social, racial, political, and economic past. Additionally, these sites present an opportunity to engage its community and to serve as a place to both educate and inspire the populace of today and tomorrow. I will explore the preservation history of some of these sites, particularly in the American South and Midwest, and detail the history of the successes and failures to preserve them. Four sites, Starr-Gennett (Richmond, Indiana), the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia), the Stax Museum of American Soul (Memphis, Tennessee), and King Records (Cincinnati, Ohio) serve as case studies not only of how to preserve and interpret these sites, but also how to engage the local community in arts and historical education.
Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Gennett Records, Historic Preservation, King Records, National Register of Historic Places, Stax Museum of American Soul, Music history, Cultural resources management, American history