“The Carter Family: Lives and Legacies” which opened in September 2014 and ran until March 2015, was our first special exhibit. This exhibit explored the original Carter Family and their time on Border Radio in Mexico, the golden years of Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, the Carter Family legacy and the musical tradition carried on by the grandchildren, nieces and nephews of A. P., Sara and Maybelle.
We worked closely with grandchildren of the original Carter Family to create a very personal story in order to give the audience a perspective they might not have seen in other exhibits. The grandchildren acted as guest curators, sharing family heirlooms with interesting stories and history – such as A.P. Carter’s Martin guitar from his days on Border Radio, one of Mother Maybelle’s stage dresses, and June Carter Cash’s Grammy award – along with memories and anecdotes about life in this musical family. A visitor favorite was the display with Mother Maybelle’s hunting and fishing license, along with photographs of Maybelle bowling and fishing. This was supplemented with a video piece featuring Carlene Carter sharing memories of her grandmother Maybelle, made especially for this exhibit. Another popular element of the exhibit was the mini Carter Fold, fitted out with old bus seats and a video of music and dancing from the Fold.
The personal touches and strong partnerships formed with Carter family members and local supporters made this exhibit a real success, both for our visitors and the museum itself. This exhibit won an Award of Excellence for Special Exhibits at the 2015 Tennessee Association of Museums conference.