Country Stars Go on Display at the Smithsonian

National Museum of American History Exhibits Photography of Henry Horenstein
January 3, 2006
Before the mega-concerts and sold-out stadium tours that dominate today’s music scene, country music artists such as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings, the Carter Family, Loretta Lynn and George Jones, performed in more intimate, fan-oriented atmospheres fondly referred to as honky-tonks. From 1972 to 1981, photographer Henry Horenstein captured the end of this era in country music as the first and second generations of country music artists were making their last tours. That country music scene will be on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in the new exhibition “Honky-Tonk: Country Music Photographs by Henry Horenstein, 1972-1981,” opening March 10, 2006. “Country music and American culture and identity are indelibly linked,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “By displaying photography depicting country music stars and their fans, the museum will tell a unique story about a distinctly American form of music and the culture and communities that nurtured it from its beginnings in the rural south to its recent mainstream success.” Featuring 80 black-and-white images of venues, country music artists and fans, “Honky-Tonk” examines both the relationships between the performers and their fans and the famous venues at which they met. Highlighted in this display of Horenstein’s photography are the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Theater, the famous honky-tonk Tootsies Orchid Lounge, country music parks and festivals, and juke joints and roadhouses. Other objects on view include hats worn by Minnie Pearl and Dudley Connell, a record jacket featuring Rounder Records artist Don Stover, a Model 12 Dobro guitar, a scrapbook of hillbilly and Western stars, a fan’s photo album and fan magazines. In the 1970s, Horenstein began his career photographing the people and places that naturally attracted him—honky-tonks and other venues where country music performers and fans met and mingled. For more than a decade, Horenstein captured this scene on film. His work is not limited to country music photography, as he is also an author and educator, who has published more than 30 books on photography. Horenstein is currently a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage through exhibitions and public programs about social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Documenting the American experience from Colonial times to the present, the museum looks at growth and change in the United States. The museum, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at or call (202) 633-1000, (202) 357-1729 (TTY).