Jessica Turner

Working as a folklorist and ethnomusicologist in addition to my museum work, my primary research examines heritage and community. As the director of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, my work changes every day as we strive to provide the best interpretation and experience for visitors near and far. As we strengthen our foundation and continue working on innovative projects, we stay quite busy! Much of my work focuses on representing the museum and advocating for our work, but I also participate in other public projects focusing on heritage and tourism in southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee.

I joined the museum staff as the Director and Head Curator in April 2013 and led the museum’s work during exhibit design and construction. Prior to accepting this position, I organized and led the content team for the museum’s exhibits in 2012. Previously, I directed a program in Cultural Heritage Studies at Virginia Intermont College, a private liberal arts college that closed in 2014 after a long financial struggle all too common in today’s challenging higher education climate. In the Heritage Studies program, I taught courses in heritage, tourism, folklore, ethnomusicology, exhibitions, and Appalachian Studies.

My academic focus comes from lifelong interests in music, community, and trying to understand the human experience. My work in the fields of folklore and ethnomusicology examines heritage, community, and the arts in Appalachia and southern China (yes, there is a connection!), with particular interests in heritage tourism as economic development and community revitalization. Through my Master’s thesis, I explored the sense of community at the weekly gatherings at the Carter Family Fold here in southwest Virginia.

I am interested in a number of issues affecting the creative arts in local contexts, including folk song and cultural performance, the impacts of tourism on local communities, rural cultural preservation efforts, discourses of ethnicity and identity, and cultural property. I am excited at the opportunity to dig into these ideas – along with a host of others related to the museum, its mission, and its content – within our blog.

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