Music America exhibition makes national debut at the LBJ Presidential Library in February

Press Releases | Jan, 16 2024

Music America exhibition

New exhibition features iconic objects and personal mementos to tell America's music story

Exhibition dates: February 17 – August 11, 2024

(Austin, TX) - Since the nation's inception nearly two and a half centuries ago, music has informed, interpreted, and inspired our national identity. To celebrate and explore this remarkable heritage, the LBJ Presidential Library and the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music at Monmouth University announce the premiere of the exhibition Music America: Iconic Objects from America's Music History. Opening at the LBJ Library on Saturday, February 17, during Presidents' Day weekend, the exhibition will be on display through August 11, 2024.

The exhibition will feature more than one hundred objects representing the best of American music, spanning decades and genres. For the first time in one place, visitors can see everything from B.B. King's guitar "Lucille," the fox fur stole worn by Billie Holiday, and a handmade velvet shirt worn by Elvis Presley to Chuck D's handwritten lyrics to "Fight the Power," the outfit Bruce Springsteen wore on the "Born in the USA" album cover, a guitar played by Taylor Swift and a costume she wore on the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour. By focusing on musicians and personal memorabilia from this country's past and present, Music America chronicles the soundtrack of America.

Music America is curated by the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music in association with the New Orleans Jazz Museum and Hard Rock International, along with dozens of prominent collectors of American music ephemera. "The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music is honored to premiere Music America: Iconic Objects from America's Music History at the LBJ Presidential Library," said Robert Santelli, Springsteen Archives founding executive director. "Not only do we have a longstanding relationship with the library, but so much of America's greatest music history occurred in the 1960s when President Johnson was in the White House. It seemed only natural that this exhibition, which also celebrates America's 250th birthday in 2026, begins in Austin, one of the country's most important music centers, and will then travel to other presidential libraries and museums across the country."

Music lovers will enjoy an interactive "Song Bar" enabling them to hear performances by some of the artists highlighted in the exhibition, along with additional melodies that demonstrate the depth, breadth, and great productivity of American musicians. 

"I hope this one-of-a-kind collection will give visitors a deeper appreciation of the role music has played in the broad sweep of American history and encourage them to reflect on the LBJ era, a period of incredible cultural and artistic change," said LBJ Library Director Mark A. Lawrence. "These iconic objects will bring that transformation to life and transport us to another time period, as only music can."

A partial list of artists and objects include:

  • Leonard Bernstein's baton
  • John Coltrane's saxophone
  • Chuck D's handwritten lyrics to "Fight the Power"
  • Gloria Estefan's sequined dress from her 1996 tour
  • Woody Guthrie's signed "This Land is Your Land" lyrics
  • Billie Holiday's fox fur stole
  • B.B. King's guitar "Lucille"
  • Madonna's wedding dress from the "Like a Virgin" video
  • Willie Nelson's cowboy boots given to him by Gene Autry's widow
  • Elvis Presley's 1956 Tupelo, Mississippi, concert shirt
  • Prince's "Purple Rain" shirt and "Cloud" guitar
  • Bruce Springsteen's outfit worn on the "Born in the USA" album cover
  • Taylor Swift's guitar and costume from the Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour 
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Number One" guitar

Visuals: High-resolution photos of several objects are available upon request.

About the LBJ Presidential Library

The LBJ Presidential Library, located on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, is one of 15 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Dedicated in May 1971, its mission is to preserve and protect the historical materials in its collections and make them readily accessible; to increase public awareness of the American experience through relevant exhibitions and educational programs; and to advance the LBJ Library's standing as a center for intellectual activity and community leadership while meeting the challenges of a changing world. 

The LBJ Library is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Last visitor admitted at 4 pm. 

About The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music

The Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music serves as the official repository for the musical legacy of Bruce Springsteen. The Archives includes photographs, periodicals, oral histories, rare recordings, historic footage, and artifacts related to Springsteen and the E Street Band. The Center for American Music produces museum exhibitions, seminars, concerts, and other public and educational programs that both explore and celebrate the nation's rich music tradition.

 

Media contacts:
Anne Wheeler
LBJ Presidential Library
awheeler@lbjfoundation.org
512.731.2351

Eileen Chapman
Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music
echapman@springsteenarchives.org
732.571.3512

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