Last fall, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum began undertaking the first major re-design of its galleries since the Museum opened back in 1995. We’ve just finished the first phase of the project, and I have to say it looks incredible!
We had a couple of major goals for the project. One was to upgrade all of our audio, video and interactive installations. The other was to tell the story of rock and roll in a more chronological way. We’ve always had the complete history of rock and roll, from its roots in the blues, rhythm & blues, gospel, country, folk and bluegrass up to the present, but it was not presented in any particular order. Well, we’ve changed that. In the Ahmet Ertegun Gallery, for example, we’ve kept the Mystery Train theater, which contains a film about the roots of rock and roll up to Elvis. But we got rid of the second theater, which had a film about the Beatles up to some more contemporary artists. In its place, we’ve created a new exhibit about our Early Influence inductees and a whole new roots of rock section. The area features beautiful new wallpaper made up of historic posters. It also features all of the roots cases, with entirely new casework and lighting and a new video element.
From there, visitors go through the The Beat Goes On, an interactive exhibit about how artists have influenced one another, and Don’t Knock the Rock, a video-driven exhibit about the protests against rock and roll, from the Fifties to the present. Those exhibits are not new, but they have been upgraded and are vastly improved from their previous state.
Next comes our Elvis exhibit. It has also been upgraded and now includes a huge video wall. From Elvis, visitors move into a corridor that includes our exhibits on various cities that played an important role in rock and roll, starting with Memphis in the Fifties and going all the way up to Seattle during the grunge period. Across from those cases, we have exhibits on the Fifties, rock and roll deejays, soul music and heavy metal. The heavy-metal exhibit is entirely new. From there, visitors go into the central part of the exhibit hall, where we have our Treasures from the Vault exhibit, which features key artifacts from our collection, and our Legends of Rock exhibits, which focus on various artists, including Metallica, the Who, ZZ Top, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, the Allman Brothers Band, U2, Parliament-Funkadelic and others. This area also includes our totally upgraded Beatles exhibit (check out my earlier blog for more details), our Rolling Stones exhibit (which has also been expanded to include several new artifacts, our Jimi Hendrix exhibit and our Jim Morrison exhibit. There is also a section devoted to hip-hop, as well as an area where we have exhibits focusing on Cleveland and on the music of the Midwest.
Those aren’t the only changes. On the street level, we have built an entirely new ticketing structure and we have added huge directional banners featuring images of Hendrix and Elvis. On the second level, where we used to have our soul exhibit, we now have several interactive kiosks featuring our Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll program and our One Hit Wonders program. Finally, on the third floor of the Museum, we have re-done the exterior of our actual Hall of Fame wing, painting it red and adding a red-carpet walkway.
Overall, these changes have totally transformed the Museum. It looks brand new. Stunning. And there is more to come. In the fall, we will be adding a video wall in the Ertegun gallery, and we will be building new cases so we can add more artists to the Legends of Rock section. You really need to check this out!