If you’ve been wondering how cleanup and restoration is going at the Grand Ole Opry, here’s the latest update from the Opry folks:
The Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Complex, flooded early last week in the worst Middle Tennessee floods in more than 100 years, has since been the site of an around-the clock remediation process aimed at ensuring the well-being of Opry archives and collections affected by the flooding. “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.”
Several seminal items from the Opry’s collection were untouched by the flood, as they were moved to safety in the hours before the complex began to take on water Sun., May 2. Among those items are a copy of the Nashville Banner announcing WSM radio’s first broadcast day, the steamboat whistle Opry founder George D. Hay for years blew to signal the beginning of Opry shows, the fiddle Opry patriarch Roy Acuff played during his first Opry performance, and a pair of shoes Minnie Pearl, the Queen of Country Comedy, wore during more than 50 years of performances.
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.
All artifacts that were in the path of flood waters have been painstakingly removed from the complex and placed in 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 possible 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 collected numerous other artifacts from the complex to care for in Chicago before returning to Opry caretakers. The Center has cared for fine art from some of the country’s most prestigious museums, galleries, corporate and private collections and is the largest facility of its kind in the nation.
The Opry’s vast video archives have been entrusted to New Jersey company SPECSBROS., LLC. The video collection is thus in the hands of a firm that has worked to preserve hundreds of thousands of hours of video archives, including tapes that endured New Orleans, LA flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Belfor (Fort Worth, TX) has been enlisted to work with the Opry’s extensive decades-rich photo archives.
Nashville-based George Gruhn and Joe Glaser will lead a team of luthiers from across the country to work to restore string instruments affected by the flood, including a number from Acuff’s personal collection.
Nearly all of the Opry’s audio archives were safe above the flood water line inside the Grand Ole Opry House, though some audio items housed in the 650 WSM offices will receive professional attention.
In addition to countless Opry archive and collection items on complex, a number of personal items including instruments and clothing belonging to Opry members and staff were also affected by the flood. Many of those items will require restoration, while others have been cataloged and prepped for immediate return to their owners.
Amid caring for all of the items affected by the flood, the Opry staff has also worked to preserve a new artifact created by the rising waters. An Opry House stage door more than halfway submerged in water became an indelible image of last week’s flooding as a photo of it appeared online and in newspapers around the world. Earlier this week, the door was removed from the Opry House and treated such that its water mark will be preserved. “The stage door will no doubt become a historic symbol representing this extraordinary event,” Buchanan said.
Meanwhile, the Opry show, itself, hasn’t missed a beat, having played on Tues., May 4 at one of its former homes, Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium. Following three shows at the historic Ryman Auditorium, the show will play three shows beginning tonight at Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church before returning to the Ryman for another run. “As Marty Stuart said the first night we were temporarily displaced from the Opry House,” Buchanan recalled, ‘our family, our songs, and our spirit live on.’”
Among those coming soon to the Opry stage include Grammy-winners Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, and Steve Wariner. Continuous updates on venues for Opry performances until the show returns to the Opry House can be found on opry.com as well as via Opry Facebook and Twitter updates. Opry performances are held every weekend of the year and on Tuesdays through Dec. 14. The Grand Ole Opry® is presented by Humana®.