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Johnny Cash Museum to Unveil New Expansion During Annual Birthday Bash

The Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville is preparing to unveil several new exhibits, and according to museum founder Bill Miller, it will help clear the way for even more fans to enjoy Cash’s legacy.

The museum opened in May of 2013 to great fanfare, and it has been a spectacular success, drawing such consistently large crowds from points all over the world that it’s become problematic to get fans through the existing exhibits without experiencing bottlenecks.

The museum originally inhabited a multi-tenant building and encompassed around 3,500 square feet, which Miller believed was sufficient. “Because you’re dealing with a single subject, and in 3,500 square feet you can cover a lot of ground,” he tells Taste of Country. “We were able to cover his entire career in that space, starting with his childhood and going through the end of his career.”

Miller first became involved with Cash as a fan in his youth, and actually got to meet the icon at a concert his father took him to. They became friends over the course of years, and Miller wound up in the memorabilia and historical documents business as an adult. He and his wife, Shannon, had an extensive collection of Cash treasures that they stored at their home, and after Cash passed away, and after his House of Cash closed and his former residence burned down, there was nothing left of his legacy to visit in Nashville except his grave. They decided to take the risk of opening a museum in Music City, where they did not live.

As the museum gained media exposure and the crowds become larger, it became apparent that changes needed to be made to free up more space and streamline operations. The museum bought the building that houses it and set about making improvements that already include a larger retail area and a new cafe.

Quite a few new exhibits will be unveiled during the annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, which is set to take place at the museum on Feb. 26 and 27. This year’s events will feature guest appearances from Cash family members and associates, the first public display of the “One Piece at a Time” car in Nashville in decades and the chance for fans to jam with Cash’s drummer, W.P. Holland, but the main focus will be on the new expansion, which includes the first-ever public display of costumes from the Walk the Line biopic.

There are also several new interactive features, including a fun green screen that lets fans get their pictures taken with Cash in a variety of poses, as well as a selection of digitized covers of Cash’s music from other artists, ranging from Miley Cyrus and Dean Martin to Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy.

Perhaps the most interesting of the interactive features is In the Studio, which allows fans to personally re-mix any one of Cash’s song on a digital mixing board, isolate individual instrumental or vocal parts and get a new insight into the actual musical tracks that built Cash’s legend.

“Sony/Columbia was actually kind enough to give us the raw tracks, which they’d never done with anybody before,” Miller says. “I heard a song that I’d known for 30-40 years called ‘One Piece at a Time,’ but I had no idea that Johnny was doing his own harmony on the song. But with this, you can isolate the vocals, and it’s just like, ‘What?! I always thought that was Marshall Grant backing him up.’ But it’s actually Johnny, and you can tell it’s him.”

There’s also a theater where fans can experience a Johnny Cash concert in surround sound, as well as an exhibit devoted solely to the Carter Family.

“There’ll be a lot of interesting things, and fun things, and of course, more space for people to go, because there are times you can’t move in the museum,” Miller says. “So we’re really excited to be able to do that.”

For more information about the Johnny Cash Museum, visit its official website.

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