When Brenda Colladay joined the Country Music Hall of Fame, the 350,000-square-foot museum was one of America’s premier cultural institutions. Daunting to some, Colladay presides over the hall’s collection of more than 2.5 million artifacts with an ease and love for what each piece means to the evolution of country music. A respected curator and preservationist Colladay has faced the shuttering of her space with an ingenuity that’s inspiring.
“From exhibitions in galleries to public programs in our theaters, and from tours of Hatch Show Print and Historic RCA Studio B to hosting researchers in our library, the museum has, throughout its 53-year history served a largely in-person audience,” she said of their mission. “We were challenged to harness the technology available to reach an at-home audience while retaining our own voice to help distinguish our programming from the other “virtual” programming that moved online.”
It worked. The CMHoF saw 7.3 million virtual visitors through live/guided or on-demand content last year.
Just as importantly, Colladay harnessed the Museum’s treasures for a virtual concert/fundraiser, “Big Night (At the Museum).” Teaming country’s most important artists with historic instruments, more than 4 million people have viewed the content on the hall’s YouTube channel since its Oct. 28, 2020, debut. The content is free, but it’s raised over $1.1 million in support of the museum’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.
“We recorded 13 once-in-a lifetime performances in the museum’s galleries and theaters,” Colladay said. “The artists, instruments, and songs were all carefully matched based on artistic or personal connections, and the result was something incredibly special that exemplifies the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on so many levels.
— Holly Gleason