In addition to the exhibit history below, we have created research guides for the following exhibits:
Legends of Rock
Known as a staple of the Rock Hall for over 20 years, Legends of Rock, an exhibit featuring handwritten drafts of hit singles, performance outfits, and instruments from some of history’s greatest concerts, will now take over four floors of the Museum. When rock & roll burst onto the scene in the mid-1950s, its impact was immediate and explosive. More than a musical sensation, rock & roll was a social and generational phenomenon that became one of the most important artistic movements of the twentieth century. Its seismic influence reverberates across society, impacting how we think about fashion, youth culture, dance, race, sexuality and free speech. It has become a way of life; one that thrives today. Ranging from rhythm & blues, jazz, and folk rock to heavy metal and hip-hop, this exhibition represents a myriad of musical genres and highlights some of the world’s most iconic acts both past and present.
The Biggest Show on Turf: 55 Years of Halftime Shows
With a worldwide audience that exceeds 100 million people, the Super Bowl Halftime Show is the most watched musical event in the world. Each halftime performance comes with a different vision and approach. Whether it’s Bruce Springsteen’s dynamic performance with minimalist staging, Bruno Mars’ 1950’s-style R&B revue, the Las Vegas-style showgirl spectacular from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, or Prince’s rain-soaked stage in the shape of his iconic trademark symbol – they all become distinctive and historic events of our time. Fans can relive decades of memorable Super Bowl moments through performance outfits, instruments, and set pieces.
It's Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope and Empowerment
In every generation, musicians have responded in song and action to promote social justice and equality. What the world is seeing today, as injustices are called out and protesters are finding their voices, is not new. And neither are the musical responses - words and music and passion converging to create something much bigger that cuts deep into the rage, gives hope and radiates empowerment. This exhibition invites you to listen and amplify. Divided into three sections, Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment mirrors the museum's physical exhibition, and allows visitors to go deeper into the stories, artifacts and music that promote real change.
Iconic: Baron Wolman: Images of an Era
Baron Wolman’s photographs of musicians in the late Sixties encapsulate an unparalleled time in American history. As the first chief photographer for Rolling Stone magazine, Wolman not only documented the era but helped to define it in images for subsequent generations of fans. During his tenure at Rolling Stone, Wolman’s lens captured the icons of 1960s rock and pop, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, the Who, and many others. Wolman’s unique access to his subjects, combined with his keen eye, gave his photographs an up-close-and-personal quality that was rare and unprecedented.
Induction All-Access: Photography by Kevin Mazur
One of the world’s most esteemed celebrity photographers, Kevin Mazur has created iconic images of thousands of artists. His work has been published in countless magazines, books, exhibitions, ad campaigns and on the covers of albums by legendary musicians. Kevin Mazur has been the official photographer for all but two of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. This special exhibition features Mazur’s personally curated selection of his intimate backstage portraits and epic onstage images, providing fans with an up-close and personal look at past Induction moments.
Local Music U Want: Northeast Ohio Punk and New Wave
This exhibit, held at the Library & Archives, showcased materials related to NEO Sound and made available through an NHPRC grant to fund the accessibility of the institution's historically important music resources. Local Music U Want focused on the unique Northeast Ohio punk and new wave scenes of the 1970s and ‘80s, fueled by the changing post-industrial landscape of the “Rust Belt.” Unlike other music scenes in the U.S., Northeast Ohio punk and new wave primarily flew under the radar, allowing the music to evolve into something more avant-garde and exploratory. Featured in the exhibit are photos, stickers, flyers, cassette zines and other promotional materials from the Rock Hall’s NEO Sound collections on local bands the Dead Boys, Devo, the Waitresses, Pere Ubu, the Styrenes, Tin Huey, 15 60 75 (The Numbers Band), and more! Donors featured include musicians Chris Butler and Marky Ray and photographer Dave Treat.
Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll
The instruments used in rock and roll have a profound impact on this art form. Rock fans have long been fascinated with the instruments used by musicians; many seeking out and acquiring the exact models of instruments and equipment used by their idols, and spending countless hours trying to emulate their music and their look. This exhibition is co-organized with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and presents approximately 130 instruments alongside posters, photographs, and costumes. Many of rock's most celebrated and recognized instruments are featured, representing artists across generations and subgenres. In addition to institutional and private collectors, many musicians are lending their performance and recording instruments.
Forever Warped: 25 Years of Warped Tour
This exhibit takes fans through the "punk summer camp" memories and highlights the tour was known for. A DIY-friendly and alternative music launch pad, Vans Warped Tour's stages have been the training ground for many punk, ska and alternative bands throughout the years and messages of activism and social responsibility were the guiding forces behind organizations and partners that were part of the festival. To open the special exhibit in June 2019 we were one of the last stops on the final Warped Tour schedule and to celebrate the exhibit's opening we hosted an all-day festival event on our plaza. Videos on playlist include interviews with Warped Tour alum Simple Plan, Hawthorne Heights, We the Kings, Meg & Dia, Emery and The Slackers, performances from the exhibit opening, dedication remarks and a special Vault Tour with Simple Plan.
Woodstock at 50
Woodstock at 50 celebrates the ambition and ingenuity of those who mounted the festival to the performers who played it, gaining a deeper understanding of the various faces of Woodstock and how it changed the music industry. The exhibit features prints, performance outfits, video footage, tickets, original signage, and more.
King Records: 30 Years that Changed American Music, 1943-1971
From 1943 to 1971, Cincinnati's King Records and its subsidiaries, including Queen, DeLuxe, and Federal, revolutionized the ways in which popular music was recorded, manufactured, distributed, and promoted. Under the leadership of founder Syd Nathan, King became a major independent record label, with nearly 500 singles on the R&B, country, and pop charts, and 32 songs making it to Number One. This traveling exhibit on the history of King Records was developed to tell the unique story of this influential company beyond its home of Cincinnati. Following a symposium and exhibit at the Public Library of Cincinnati in 2008 to mark King Records’ 65th anniversary, King Studios, a nonprofit organization was formed at the original King Records headquarters. With funding from ArtsWave, King Studios board member Tim Riordan, the Community Building Institute, historian Brian Powers and designer Chris Schadler collaborated to visually present 30 years of legendary music created by King Records. While installed at the Rock Hall's Library & Archives, the traveling exhibit was enhanced with artifacts and archival items from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s collections. Over 20 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees recorded at King Records, including Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Dave Bartholomew, James Brown and the Famous Flames, Bootsy Collins, the “5” Royales, Little Willie John, Freddy King, and Professor Longhair. In 2008, King Records was officially designated as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame landmark. At the ceremony, then-president Terry Stewart stated, “There’s not a more important piece of real estate in musical history than the building over there on Brewster.”
Something Going On: Jeff Rusnak, A Rock & Roll Life
Starting in the 1970s, Jeff Rusnak (1956-2016) was a fixture in the pits of rock clubs and concert halls in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York City snapping hundreds of thousands of images. “Jefty” was a late-night disc jockey, musician, producer and manager at the legendary Princeton Record Exchange and an incessant photographer. In true punk rock DIY fashion, he sought out new bands, wrote for fanzine “Music Mercer Now,” and in the 1980s founded Bird O’Pray Records, a cassette label best known for launching teenage band turned alternative icons Ween. Rusnak's deep love of music permeated his life, from playing bass in local indie rock band Fünkaphobia, to his cat Fripp, named after King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. He was the longtime counter manager of the Princeton Record Exchange and attended live music events nearly every night of his adult life. A massive fan of punk, progressive and alternative rock, Jefty captured many iconic artists early in their careers, both onstage and off. The photos in this collection represent his passion – a life filled with music and musicians, from Yes in the 1970s to the Flaming Lips in the 2010s. When Jeff passed away in 2016, his family generously provided this photo collection to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to ensure it would be preserved and shared with future generations. The complete Jeff Rusnak Photography Collection is available at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Library & Archives.
Part of the Machine: Rock & Pinball
An interactive exhibit showcasing rock-themed, playable pinball machines combined with historic merchandise and artifacts to explore the artistic portrayal of artists and bands. Rock and roll and pinball have a lot in common. Loud, colorful and rebellious, it was inevitable that the two would combine to celebrate rock’s icons. Inside the exhibit you'll find machines featuring icons such as KISS, Guns 'n' Roses, Alice Cooper, Dolly Parton, The Who, Elton John and more. All the machines on display are playable by visitors. In addition, the Library & Archives exhibited Part of the Machine: The Collectible & Quirky, featuring some of the quirkier artist-related merchanding objects from the collection. Like rock & roll itself, the merchandise created to celebrate its artists takes many forms, with products that are innovative, flamboyant and at times, weird. Since its beginnings, the rock merchandising machine has artistically immortalized superstars on collectible trading cards, comic books, postage stamps, and picture discs; and rock musicians have even licensed their images for use on dolls, masks, coffins and beyond.
Stay Tuned: Rock on TV
Since exploding onto the scene in the post-war 40s, television and rock & roll have reflected social values, shaped the youth culture and created icons. In its early days, they sat at opposite ends of the table, with tv showcasing the normalcy of nuclear family and strong moral lessons, while rock & roll questioned the establishment with a rebellious attitude. But as television sets became a household fixture, advertisers sought to reach the booming youth and teenage demographic and their expendable pocket money, cracking the door for rock & roll’s acceptance into the mainstream through shows like American Bandstand, The Ed Sullivan Show, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In the multi-floor, multi-sensory, and multimedia exhibition, visitors will also see the birth of the music video, how it reached its pinnacle with the launch and domination of MTV and its sub-brands and used its technology to push music and artistry to new heights.
Zombies: Spotlight Exhibit
In this exhibit, fans and visitors discovered how the band handled their success and enthusiastic fans, how ZZ Top's Frank Beard and Dusty Hill capitalized on the Zombies' popularity, and their continued influence on popular music with artists like Dave Grohl, Alex Turner (Artic Monkeys), the Shins and more. Among the items on display were Chris White's bass guitar, Rod Argent's Hohner electric pianet, sheet music for "She's Not There," Paul Atkinson's acoustic guitar from the recording of "Tell Her No," Hugh Grundy's Ludwig snare drum used on all of the Zombies' 1960s recordings, and the artwork for the band’s critically acclaimed Odessey and Oracle album by Terry Quirk
Rolling Stone / 50 Years: Retrospective
An in-depth look behind the scenes of Rolling Stone's legacy. In the summer of love, a young Jann Wenner set out to start “sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper.” The idea was to give music lovers more than what pulpy teen magazines and outdated fan magazines had to offer. Wenner was ambitious—he wanted to cover in depth not only the music of the time but also the culture it shaped, its ripple throughout current events, politics and social attitudes. Fifty years later, Rolling Stone is and remains the standard for music journalism.
Rapper's Delight Retrospective
Rapper's Delight was an exhibit on the history of hip-hop: not only a monument to rappers past but a peek into the future. In 2017, Tupac Shakur was inducted, and rap's prominence was only rising. This exhibit highlighted the similarities between rock and hip-hop through handwritten lyrics, jewelry, costumes, and sketches of stage designs and hand-drawn posters advertising Ice-T at Lollapalooza 1991, where the do-it-yourself aesthetic was unmistakable, as present in the underground hip-hop scene as it was in Riot Grrrl's Pacific Northwest or CBGB's.
Summer of Love Turns 50
Fifty years ago, the epicenter of counterculture, the San Francisco neighborhood Haight-Ashbury, attracted young people by the thousands. Though an eclectic group, they often shared similar beliefs: experimentation, a rejection of consumerist values, peace, a general opposition toward the Vietnam War, and a passion for music. The Summer of Love Turns 50 celebrated a time when musicians were looked to as a collective mouthpiece for a generation. Exhibit artifacts included Jimi Hendrix’s purple velvet jacket and recording console used for his “Summer of Love” recordings; a guitar played by Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead); clothing worn by Michelle Phillips (Mamas and the Papas); iconic concert posters from the Fillmore, Avalon Ballroom and others and original artwork by Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane. In addition, the Library & Archives showcased concert handbills featuring the visual artists who reflected the culture’s vibrancy.
Mellencamp told the story of a complex artist who forged his own path—tranforming manager-named "Johnny Cougar" to self-possessed John Mellencamp, a music and visual artist, a champion of heartland values, and an advocate for American farmers. The exhibit was comprised mainly of artifacts from Mellencamp's personal collection, including his 1966 silver Honda Scrambler 305 motorcycle, photographs and ephemera, handwritten lyrics, clothing, Dove acoustic guitar used from the 1970s through the 1990s in live performances and songwriting sessions, six original paintings, and selections from an exclusive multi-hour interview with Mellencamp done for the exhibit.
Girls to the Front: Photography by Anastasia Pantsios
Pantsios’ work showed the power that women have on stage beginning in 1969 with her shot of Grace Slick. The exhibit traced women in rock through 2006, and featured many recognizable artists, staples of classic rock and Top 40 radio, but Pantsios also photographed lesser known artists whose influence should not be forgotten, such as Plasmatics frontwoman Wendy O. Williams. Another focal point to the exhibit was that some of these women were members of bands rather than solo artists. Rather than merely relegated to the role of "hot chick singer" or hiding behind their instrument, Pantsios' photographs allow them to shine on their own—Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads as an example.
Elvis Is in the Building
This exhibit about the "King of Rock and Roll" ran from August 8, 1998 to September 5, 1999. This year-long tribute was the first ever special exhibit devoted to a single artist, Elvis Presley, the first inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1986. The show featured over 100 artifacts culled from Graceland’s archives and the collections of Presley associates like Colonel Tom Parker and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. It was the single largest Elvis exhibition ever to appear outside of Memphis.
I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era, 1965-1969
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum launched a major exhibition examining how rock & roll came of age in the late 1960s and influenced everything from fashion and art to politics and literature. I Want to Take You Higher was the first temporary exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The show explored the music, politics, style, and art from the era, as well as their impact on society. The exhibit encompassed more than 500 artifacts, from record album covers and original Woodstock posters to Jimi Hendrix’s guitar and John Lennon’s Rolls Royce. Additionally, the exhibit focused on the cities of London and San Francisco, and artists John Lennon and Janis Joplin. The exhibit was held in the Ahmet Ertegun Exhibition Hall, where a flower-shaped floor plan was established. Each petal of the flower encompassed a year of the era, individual displays within focused on particular aspects or events:
The stem of the flower was lined with band names of the era, and the center of the flower is a spiral of music - the "Psychedelic 100," curated by James Fricke. It added up to a singular experience for an incomparable period in music and modern American culture. As Jann Wenner said, "it’s an exhibit worth licking."
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