Having grown up around artistically inclined people, I can appreciate not only a well-written tune but the effort it takes to make hand hewn instruments.
Perhaps that is why, in part, that the “American Banjo Museum” in Oklahoma City speaks to me.
The only one of its kind, the museum is home to the largest collection of banjos in the entire world, including some of the most opulent ones known to man.
What follows is a short description of what visitors to this “monumental ode to musical history” can expect to find there.
Those visiting the “American Banjo Museum” for the first time will want to begin their journey on the first floor. Designed to initiate music history novices, the first floor exhibits start with exploring the banjo’s African American roots.
Central to the first floor exhibits are five banjos that are arranged to show the instruments progression from the 1600’s onward.
The primitive, circa 1600’s banjos are said to have been used by African American slaves of the period. From there on banjos became increasing more ornate, especially during the Age of Jazz.
The exhibits on the second level expand upon those of the first, beginning with the string tenor and plectrum banjos popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Also included is a detailed display devoted to the “Gibson Story.”
Jazz Age banjo greats and others, like Joel Walker Sweeney and Bela Fleck, are recognized as part of the “National Four String Banjo Hall of Fame” and there is a recreation of the famed “Shakey’s Pizza Parlor”, a former California hot spot known for banjos, brew and pizza.
In true “Shakey’s” tradition, local banjo artists perform live in the recreated parlor on Saturdays from 3:00 pm until 5:00 pm.
Highlights of the “American Banjo Museum” include Minstrel Age banjos, primitive banjos, post World War II banjos, ornate banjos from the Jazz Age, personal scrapbook of Frederick Bacon, and an autographed banjo head signed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
Other items on exhibit include countless audio visual recordings, rare sheet music, rare songbooks, rare folios, photographs and other banjo related memorabilia.
Museum tours are traditionally self-guided. Docent guided tours may be pre-arranged, if done well in advance, through the museum staff for large groups.
As of 2011 admission to the “American Banjo Museum” is $6 per adult and $4 per child between the ages of 5 through 17. Children age 5 and under are gratis.
There are special discounts available for students, members of the military, senior citizens and family groups.
As admission prices are subject to change, travelers are encouraged to call and confirm details prior to museum arrival.
Hours of Operation
The “American Banjo Museum” is open year round, Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm and on Sundays from noon until 5:00 pm. It is closed on most major holidays.
The on-site museum store and café are open for business during the museum’s normal business hours.
Music lovers who visit the “American Banjo Museum” in Oklahoma City may also want to consider dining at the “Prohibition Room” located in the historic “Gold Dome.”
The “Prohibition Room” is designed to resemble a 1920’s speakeasy and features both period menus and live entertainment, including Jazz artists.
American Banjo Museum
9 East Sheridan Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73104
American Banjo Museum, “Planning a Visit” American Banjo Museum