The Country Music Foundation (CMF) is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization dedicated to collecting and preserving artifacts and disseminating information about country music’s development as an art and a business. The State of Tennessee chartered the CMF in 1964.
In 1967, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened, providing a home for the CMF’s activities and educational programs. Until 1971, the CMF shared staff members with the Country Music Association (CMA), but that year the CMF gained a staff of its own and established a library in the basement of the building. Library holdings presently include more than 175,000 recorded discs, 8,000 books, 450 periodicals, 150,000 photographs, and thousands of songbooks, films, business documents, and other materials. Open by appointment, the library serves as a resource not only for CMF staff but for schools and colleges, the music industry, and the media.
The CMF underwent considerable expansion in the mid-1970s, including the construction of new museum and library wings to house the rapidly growing collections and the launching of educational programs, first in Middle Tennessee schools but eventually expanding to schools in Kentucky and Georgia. The CMF established an oral history project to document the contributions of singers, songwriters, business executives, and others involved in country music, past and present. The foundation created a publications department to publish books and the Journal of Country Music. Since then, the CMF has produced such landmark works as Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America (2006) and is now jointly issuing new and formerly out-of-print titles with Vanderbilt University Press. Late in the 1970s, the first historic reissue recording appeared on the Country Music Foundation Records label; later releases include The Bristol Sessions (1987), featuring historic recording sessions held in Bristol in 1927, and Hank Williams: Rare Demos, First to Last (1990), a collection of previously unreleased demonstration recordings by one of country music’s greatest singer-songwriters. In addition, the organization also serves as a consulting and production company for other labels reissuing historical performances, producing boxed sets featuring artists like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Merle Haggard.
Employing more than seventy full-time professionals in the fields of library science, publishing, history, education, design, museum administration, and marketing, the CMF is now the world’s largest research center devoted to a single form of popular music. Annual attendance at the Hall of Fame and Museum exceeds 400,000. The Foundation also operates RCA Records Studio B as a historic site and offers a tour of this facility. The foundation-owned Hatch Show Print, a Nashville show-business printing firm founded in 1879, is situated near the museum in Nashville’s Lower Broadway district. Through its museum, library, publications, and educational programs, the CMF continues to advocate country music’s importance in American popular culture.