There’s a war for the soul of America going on right now, and one of country music’s legendary institutions is scoring a blow for the good guys. Nashville Scene reports that the Ryman Auditorium has moved its sign commemorating a Confederate soldiers’ reunion out of its performance space and into a museum, continuing a wise recent trend toward preserving Confederate monuments as historical artifacts rather than objects of honor.
The sign, which reads “1897 Confederate Gallery,” hung across the front of the balcony facing performers and was often covered during high-profile events such as a John McCain campaign rally in 2008 and the recent taping of a Netflix special. The original version of the sign was added after Confederate veterans raised money to build the upper level so that the Ryman would be big enough to contain their event, but it was likely taken by memorabilia pillagers while the venue was closed and in disarray after the Grand Ole Opry departed for a different building in 1974. The sign that was moved to the museum was a replica that had been hanging at the Ryman since its 1994 reopening, sometime after a letter to The Tennessean wondered what had happened to the original.
“If you come to the Ryman [as] a big name performer and you’re looking right out at the center of the balcony and you see that sign, you don’t know what it means,” historian and Ryman consultant David Ewing told the Scene. “Or if you’re a fan that comes at night, not during the tour, you don’t know what it means either. This is the appropriate place to have the sign and tell the story of 125 years of the Ryman and particularly how the gallery got built.”
A second sign reading “1892 Ryman Auditorium” remains.