I have made plans to visit the American Banjo Museum for the past three visits to Oklahoma
City. During each
visit, something has always come up to prevent me from seeing the museum. On my latest trip I did something
different. I went to the museum my first day so nothing would get in the way. I am glad I did. I thoroughly
enjoyed the tour. In fact, I will make a special effort to return to the Museum next year during my annual
excursion to one of my favorite cities - Oklahoma City.
The American Banjo Museum is a national treasure located in the Bricktown Entertainment District in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Museum is the only established facility in the world devoted exclusively to the collection and conservation of the instruments, recordings, film, video, printed music, instructional materials, ephemera and memorabilia associated with the music and heritage of America's only native musical instrument - the banjo. With over 300 banjos, the largest collection on public display in the world, the Museum presents the history and evolution of the banjo with interpretive exhibits and displays.
Originally located in Guthrie, Oklahoma and known as the National Four String Banjo Hall of Fame, the Museum was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1998 by Midwest City attorney, Brady Hunt and Indiana industrialist, Jack Canine. Mr. Canine, a retired Indiana industrialist as well as banjo player and enthusiast, has stated his belief that preserving and promoting the history of the banjo, America's adopted native musical instrument, is a very important mission for future generations.
Today, the American Banjo Museum is a $5 million, world-class 21,000 square foot facility honoring the rich history, vibrant spirit and unlimited future of the banjo. Interpretive exhibits, as well as, video and performance theaters let you be a witness to the history of the banjo - from its humble African roots through its heyday during the Roaring 20s to its present voice in Bluegrass, folk and world music. As you stroll through elegant galleries on two floors you will find yourself immersed in the sights and sounds of the largest collection of banjos on public display anywhere in the world.
Examples include replicas of primitive banjos developed by African slaves in the Old South, Minstrel Age instruments from 19th century, post WWII instruments used in bluegrass, folk and world music, and museum's core collection of ornately decorated banjos made in America during the Jazz Age of the 1920's and 30s.
Exhibits on the first floor are designed to introduce the banjo's rich heritage to the banjo novice. As the Museum experience continues, you are introduced to the people, music and instruments which have shaped the banjo's identity in today's musical world.
The second floor is home to the museum's centerpiece collection of more than 200 four-string banjos from the Jazz Era of banjo music. These magnificent instruments are in superb condition, with ornate designs and tonal sound qualities which are literally frozen in time. Each banjo in this exclusive collection is a work of art, illustrating the ingenuity, craftsmanship and dedication of the artisans who created these masterpieces nearly a century ago.
The banjo was introduced to America by the African slave culture in the mid-1600s and remained exclusive to the black culture for nearly 200 years. Replicas of several of these ancient instruments are on display as visitors enter the museum. As the museum experience continues, you can see examples of banjos made during the late 19th century during the so-called Minstrel Age of music when the banjo moved from the plantation to the stage and concert hall gaining broad public interest.
For the bluegrass music fan the name Gibson is synonymous with quality banjos. A special gallery in the museum spotlights a large collection of Gibson Mastertone banjos manufactured during the company's golden years of the 1920s and 30s, including an extremely rare, pre-war Gibson five-string banjo valued at more than $175,000.00.
The National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, established in 1998, honors the historically significant pioneers of four-string banjo performance, manufacturing and education as well as contemporary artists who carry on the music traditions of their predecessors. Throughout the year, the museum offers an active schedule of guided tours, educational programs and entertaining events, culminating with the Bricktown Banjo Bash held each year throughout the Bricktown Entertainment District.
Induction into the Hall of Fame is open to any individual (living or deceased), musical group or company whose career accomplishments have made a significant and positive impact on either the art or industry of the four-string banjo. The Hall of Fame nomination and election process is conducted by the Board of Directors of the American Banjo Museum.
Each year, the Museum Board has the opportunity to make up to four nominations in each of the following five categories:
Instruction & Education
Design & Manufacture
Tue - Sat 11am-6pm
Closed on Mondays and the following holidays:
New Year's Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
American Banjo Museum
9 E Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma