Several sentimental and historical artifacts of Country Music were damaged during the massive flooding that affected Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry House was just one of the buildings damaged by the flooding on May 1 and 2.
Some items from the Opry’s collection were removed prior to the flooding. A copy of the Nashville Banner announcing WSM radio’s first broadcast, Opry founder George D. Hay’s steamboat whistle, the fiddle Roy Acuff played during his first Opry appearance and a pair of Minnie Pearl’s shoes were among the items saved.
“The Opry is the heart of Country Music,” said Grand Ole Opry President Steve Buchanan, “so it is not at all surprising that since the flood, people from around the world have been interested in the safety of some of our most treasured items. Next to the safety of our staff, nothing has been more important to us in our work over the last ten days than taking care of these treasures.”
Artifacts that were not spared from the flood waters have been painstakingly removed and relocated to environments conducive to their safety.
“As the caretakers of these items, we understand how valuable they are to our music, our country and our culture,” Buchanan said. “We are working with the very best professionals to ensure items are preserved. This will not be a short process, but rather one requiring much patience and meticulousness.”
The Chicago Conservation Center has been entrusted with several items; Belfor of Fort Worth, Texas is looking after the Opry’s extensive photography collection; and the Opry’s video collection has been sent to New Jersey’s SPECBROS, LLC. Instruments, including some from Roy Acuff’s collection, are being cared for by a team of luthiers led by Nashville’s George Gruhn and Joe Glaser.
The Grand Ole Opry House's signature element, a six-foot circle of oak wood taken from the Ryman Auditorium when the show moved to the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974, is also safe. Though it and the rest of the stage were covered by 46 inches of water, the circle appeared to be in “remarkably good condition” according to Buchanan when it was removed from the Opry House to be refurbished and returned to center stage when the facility reopens later this year.
Although the flood damaged countless artifacts, it did create its own piece of music history. An Opry stage door submerged in flood water has become an iconic image of the historic flooding. Earlier this week, the door was removed from the Opry House and treated to ensure its water mark will be preserved.
“The stage door will no doubt become a historic symbol representing this extraordinary event,” Buchanan said.
Despite losing its home, the heart of Country Music hasn’t missed a beat. Grand Ole Opry shows have have continued at the Nashville War Memorial Auditorium, Two Rivers Baptist Church of Nashville and the Ryman Auditorium.