Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which for 33 years has told the cultural story behind country music, closed its doors for good on New Year’s Eve. A new museum will open in May that tourism officials say will be bigger, better and bolder. Last week, workers began packing up the old museum’s treasures, including Elvis Presley’s gold Cadillac, Dolly Parton’s scribbled lyrics to “Jolene,” Mother Maybelle Carter’s guitar, and a Patsy Cline stage costume, hand-sewn by the singer’s mother. The new $37 million home will contain about 40,000 square feet of exhibit space — four times that of the old museum — and will sit in a thriving area of downtown Nashville about a mile from Music Row, a three-block area where the city’s music industry operates. The old museum property will be used as office space by music licensing organization BMI. “This isn’t the end,” said museum manager Richard Shaluly. “We’re moving to… a whole new presentation — more contemporary, interactive and informative.” Opened in 1967, the museum was a dream of cowboy singer Tex Ritter and record producer Owen Bradley. Along with the Country Music Association, the industry’s leading trade group, they led the fund-raising drive to build it and established the educational Country Music Foundation to preserve country music traditions and manage the enterprise. Among its projects is the Hall of Fame that adjoins the museum and honors Eddy Arnold, Roy Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, and 70 others. Shaluly estimates that about 5 million people have toured the museum — about 250,000 annually in recent years. But for a changing audience and an evolving musical genre with newer artists to showcase, country music needs a more flexible home, he said. The new facility will include a theater where songwriters can demonstrate their craft, a booth where visitors can experience a blast of applause, and another one where they can make a customized CD of songs they enjoyed during the tour. (AP) Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.