Partnership Will Help Fund Museum’s Ongoing Digitization Effort and
Raise Awareness of Massive 2.5 Million Artifacts in Collection
Pictured: A young Brenda Lee performs in Nashville’s Centennial Park. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Elmer Williams Collection is available here.
New York, NY, and Nashville, TN – July 30, 2015 – Getty Images, the world leader in visual communications, is teaming up with the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum to make available for global licensing an unrivaled collection of historic country music images from the museum’s archives. This is the first collaboration of its kind for the museum, an institution dedicated to preserving and teaching the evolving history of country music.
The museum’s Elmer Williams Collection launches the collaboration, with 3,000 images, most previously unpublished. From 1952 to 1962, Williams was one of the busiest country music photographers in Nashville, using his Busch Pressman 4x5 inch camera to capture candid photos at music industry events and backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. The friendships he developed with the famous country artists of the time enabled Williams to capture unique moments and perspectives, including Johnny Cash in his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and the Everly Brothers in their 1957 Opry debut.
“This remarkable collection preserves iconic moments in country music history, including unseen images of Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Kitty Wells, and more,” said Bob Ahern, Director, Archive Photography, at Getty Images. “We are thrilled to partner with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to enrich our comprehensive archival image offerings with this exceptional gallery.”
“The Elmer Williams Collection offers a right-place, right-time view into the sweet spot of country music’s classic period from the early ’50s to the early ’60s. The photos were added to the museum’s collection in the 1990s, and we’re excited to finally share these images as part of an ongoing effort to provide access to the unduplicated collection and to fund the museum’s massive archival digitization project,” said museum CEO Kyle Young.
In addition to the partnership with Getty Images, the expansive digitization project has been kick-started by over $600,000 in leadership grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services and the GRAMMY Foundation, among others. This funding allows five full-time staff members to work on the analog-to- digital conversion, creating preservation and access files and metadata to create an online searchable database for scholars. The project aims to digitize more than 100,000 items in the collection by 2024.
Pictured: Minnie Pearl performs on the Grand Ole Opry. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Elmer Williams Collection is available here.
Over five decades, the museum has amassed a collection of 2.5 million artifacts, the finest and most complete collection of its kind in the world. The treasured cache includes thousands of recorded discs, historical photographs, films and videotapes, posters, books, songbooks, periodicals and sheet music and hundreds of audio tapes that provides the foundation for the museum’s educational mission and serves as the basis for exhibits and programs that serve nearly one million annual visitors. The museum continues to add to its collection and serves journalists, educators, students, fans and the music industry by documenting country music’s past and present and providing resources to research and address the genres ongoing themes and the cultures and subcultures that cultivate this musical style.
The Collection: By the Numbers
- : more than 30,000 moving images on over nine different formats, including 16mm film, digibeta, DVD, and early video. The dates of these materials range from the 1920s to the present, and the collection provides a vast and unique visual history of country music.
- : more than 200,000 recorded cylinders and discs including 98% of all pre-World War II country recordings ever made
- More than 650 interviews with performers, recording artists, songwriters and a wide variety of business personnel involved in the country music industry in the.
- more than 500,000 images related to the history of country and American folk music. The dates of these images range from the 1920s to the present.
- more than one million newspaper clippings and media press releases covering over 4,500 country music performers and music-related topics. Holdings also include a large collection of sheet music, periodicals, songbooks, books, fan club newsletters, and pamphlets spanning a time period from the 1800's to present day.
- Tens of Thousands of posters, prints, off-set press metal printings, business documents and design process tracings
- : more than 800 stage costumes, articles of clothing and accessories, over 600 instruments, and thousands of other objects-from microphones to automobiles-documenting the history of country music.
ELMER WILLIAMS (1927–1993)
A restaurant owner, Elmer Williams supplemented his income by taking photographs of accident scenes for insurance companies, eventually branching out to weddings and family portraits. Williams’s casual, personable approach helped him develop friendships with many country artists, who let their guard down around him. In the early 1960s, Williams realized a lifelong dream to become a police officer, and he left behind his work as a part-time photographer. In the 1990s, more than four thousand historic photographs—many unpublished—were added to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Frist Library and Archive. Williams was one of nine featured photographers in Country: Portraits of an American Sound, the primary exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography from May to September 2014. Several of Williams’s photographs were used to promote the exhibit, including candid photos of twelve-year-old Brenda Lee in her first Nashville concert in 1957, of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two in their first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, and of the Everly Brothers in their 1957 Opry debut.
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