Songs of the Past at New Museum

Nestled in the scenic hills of Southeast Ohio is an unexpected and rare music history museum. Music Makers Museum holds a collection of early music recording and playing technology. The kind most people only see from a distance in the movies.

Charlotte and Rodney Pack collected the technology and early artists’ recordings over a span of twenty years. Then it took them another five years to figure out how to create the family-friendly, interactive exhibition “How’d We Get Here?” The exhibition explores how Americans have collected, enjoyed, and recorded music from the mid-1800s to 2000.

The exhibition opened June 2019, in the Rocky Fork Lake Region of Highland County, Ohio. Hours vary by season and special events, details are listed at and Facebook.

“There are only a handful of museums worldwide that feature phonographs as their main collection. This is the only one of its kind worldwide to combine the early recording technology, artists, music genres and general history all in one place,” said Rodney Pack, who is nicknamed the Phonograph Man for his meticulous phonograph restoration work.

Visitors can see and hear close up the early music technology, hearing voices recorded on wax cylinders from over 100 years ago. Thirty working phonographs tell the story of Thomas Edison’s phonograph invention, improvements and competition. Edison’s invention took music from being a live performance to captured sound and earned him the nicknamed “The Wizard”.

“Can you imagine what it would feel like to listeners of the late 1870s to hear the mysterious sounds coming from the strange mechanical box?  Edison claimed it was ‘The Phonograph with a Soul, said Charlotte Pack, Music Makers Museum curator and history author.

Music Makers Museum evolves past the phonographs into radio, wire recorders, magnetic tapes, a 1946 jukebox and electronic record players, even an MP3 Player. Visitors can also explore America’s changing musical landscape from Vaudeville to Marching Bands, Ragtime to Jazz, Early Country to Bluegrass,
Rock ‘n’ Roll to Disco and the artists who made it popular.

A timeline of presidents, wars, key inventions and fun facts put the music changes into context. “People really like the timeline because it helps them see the evolution of music in America. It helps them understand how music, culture and history all relate,” said Rodney Pack,

Depending on how much you read and talk, the museum can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. “The most we had someone stay is three hours, so far. We are a small museum, with a big mission: to preserve the voices of the past to inspire future generations. Each musician’s or inventor’s story was chosen and written with an inspirational message,” said Charlotte Pack.

“For example Ada Jones had epilepsy. During recording sessions, she was bullied by co-workers and it was very physically demanding work as each record cylinder had to be individually recorded. There were no master copies and reproduction in the 1880s. Sometimes Jones had a seizure but would get up off the floor and go back to recording. She was the first popular female recording artist. Children and young adults need to know, despite their challenges they can be successful in life,” said Charlotte Pack.

As the sound of Aunt Nancy and Uncle Josh’s Vaudeville laughter drift through the air from the first popular home phonograph, a family is interacting.  Two grandparents and three grandchildren are listening and laughing together. Near the 1946 Seeburg jukebox, an elderly couple reminiscence about their days of dancing to Rock ‘n’ Roll music.  Music Makers Museum has created a space to remember, to make new memories and to talk about music as the “backdrop of our lives.”

Music Makers Museum is situated in rural Appalachia, music from an outside candy apple red searchlight horn greets you and the landscaped grounds and ample sitting areas provide an opportunity to enjoy nature. Nature lovers can also discover many trails at the nearby parks: Rocky Fork Lake State Park, Paint Creek State Park, Pike State Park, Fort Hill State Park, Highland Nature Sanctuary and Serpent Mound.

Hillsboro, the county seat, draws a large crowd each year with the annual Festival of Bells July 4th weekend. The festival sponsors national upcoming Christian and country artists who perform nightly. Or in nearby Bainbridge, visitors can also take in a show at the Paxton Theater, home to the longest running county music show the “Paint Valley Jamboree”.

The afternoon drive can be topped off with fresh Amish pastries or “possibly the world’s greatest cheesecake” at the Cheesecake Factory. Highland County is centrally located about an hour from the larger cities of Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio.

For Music Makers Museum latest news, open hours and changing exhibit schedule, please visit

Contributed by Visit Highland County

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