BRISTOL, Va. — For anyone who ever disassembled a household item or wondered how it functions, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum has a new exhibit for you.
“Things Come Apart,” a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution, opens Saturday in the museum’s special exhibits gallery. Through a mix of creative photographs, disassembled objects and video clips, the exhibit visually breaks down generations of items, from a mechanical pencil, mantel clock, rotary telephone and manual push mower to an iPod, laptop computer and a digital camera.
“It’s one of those exhibits the Smithsonian Institution creates to travel around the country to various museums,” said René Rodgers, curator of exhibits and publications at the museum. “We are the third museum to have it. It’s just come to us from the Kansas City Public Library. The exhibit is based on the work of photographer and artist Todd McLellan. He has taken the idea of common, everyday objects to look at their functionality, their design, the change in technology, and he’s done that by taking them down to their component parts and creating artistic renditions of them.”
While the exhibit has nothing to do with music, it fulfills another purpose for the special exhibits gallery, she said.
“I’d say 75 percent of the exhibits in this space will be tied to our [museum] content in a pretty tangible way,” Rodgers said. “But we also view this gallery as an opportunity to share something different with our community. It’s a way to bring people in who might not think they have the interest in the first place and an opportunity to bring a resource to the community they might not otherwise have access to.”
Some of the photos show each item with all the components carefully arranged, while others appear to show the pieces flying in every direction.
There are 39 photographs, and four of the items, including the clock and lawnmower, are displayed in pieces, mounted in acrylic. Companion plaques include information about the object and how many pieces it contains.
There are two video clips that explain the process and the art.
“It will be great for adults, but we feel it will be ideal for school groups,” Rodgers said. “For people visiting the museum, it’s a great new, different type of exhibit to visit. Or for people who might think they don’t care about music, it’s a very interesting exhibit.”
The museum has supplemented the traveling exhibit with two music-themed additions — an acoustic guitar that has been disassembled and cut in half and an early 20th-century record player.
“One of our local collectors donated the phonograph for us to take apart specifically for the exhibit, but it works, so he didn’t want us to take the motor apart,” Rodgers said. “So he sourced us a second motor, and we took apart the phonograph to its three basic big components — the horn, the base and the top with the turntable and motor attached — and we took apart the other base and motor.”
Two of the larger images pictured are a two-seat light aircraft and upright piano.
Admission to the exhibit is included in regular admission fees of $13.65 for adults and $11.55 for seniors, college students, the military, children ages 6-17 and groups of 20 and more.
Strongwell and the Eastman Foundation provided support for the exhibit, which opens Saturday and will remain until Oct. 8.