- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

NASHVILLE, Tenn. The new home for Naomi Judd's old washing machine, Elvis Presley's Cadillac and Dolly Parton's scribbled lyrics to "Jolene" is shaping up nicely in downtown Nashville.

The new Country Music Hall of Fame is set to open in May 2001. Designers of the $37 million building hope to create a tourist attraction that tells the cultural story behind the gritty, working-class music.

"Through these folks, we can tell the story of American life and struggle for success and larger issues that transcend the subject matter," says Hall of Fame director Kyle Young.

A good example is Miss Judd's white-enamel wringer washing machine from her home in Kentucky. Long before she became a country sensation with daughter Wynonna, Miss Judd washed other people's clothes with homemade soap to earn money.

"We've got the recipe for her soap, and then we've got these fancy costumes that they wore on their farewell tour," says Diana Johnson, the museum's deputy director. "Stories of human accomplishments are really the thread that pulls this whole thing together."

The new downtown Hall of Fame will replace a much smaller building that opened in 1967 on Music Row, a three-block area where most of the Nashville music industry operates.

The new Hall of Fame has been under construction for a year. From different angles, it looks like a piano, a railway station or a giant musical note. From the air, it looks like a pile of stacked records.

The museum will have room in its 40,000 square feet of exhibit space to display much of the collection that rarely has been seen by the public.

"If we really do our job right, we would like to think that we will not only be connecting the present with the past, but also to the future," Mr. Young says.

The exhibit director is Ralph Appelbaum, whose work includes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and the American Museum of Natural History's new Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

Among the more interesting features: Visitors will be able to make a customized CD of the songs they enjoy during the tour. They will be able to visit a booth where they will experience a blast of applause.

The admission ticket, costing about $15, will resemble a laminated backstage pass. With it, visitors will be able to take an elevator ride to the top of the building.

The three-hour tour will start with a series of giant mazes, where visitors will walk through the early history of country music.

Miss Johnson says artifacts will be placed along the way to help tell the story.

"There will be headsets so you can listen to the music, and there will be video scrapbooks as a way of showing off our film and still-photograph collections," she says.

The mazes will end at a gateway marked by Presley's Cadillac. Visitors then will be able to view a display of stage outfits, including those worn by Reba McEntire, that trace the evolution of a country star's image.

"Reba really worked hard with us to show how she went from this 'rodeo belt buckle' kind of look all the way up to this glamorous look," Miss Johnson says.

Next comes a 2 and 1/2-story spiral staircase that leads to a room displaying every gold and platinum album in the history of country music. There are about 900 albums.

The Country Music Hall of Fame Web site is: https:// www.halloffame.org

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