Originally located in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the American Banjo Museum moved to its current $5 million, 21,000-square-foot Bricktown home in 2009. Visits start with an eight-minute multimedia show tracing the history of the banjo from its roots in American slavery in the 1600s through the minstrel era to the instrument’s current use in folk, jazz and bluegrass music. Exhibits on the first and second floors center around displays of banjos, many with elaborate decorations; information with the exhibits expands upon the introductory show.
On the second floor, a video features movie clips highlighting banjos (including the famous Dueling Banjos scene in Deliverance and Mickey Rooney playing the banjo in blackface in the 1941 Babes on Broadway). This level also contains a re-created 1960s Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, the site of occasional live banjo performances, and the National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame, honoring performers, promoters, educators and manufacturers.
We enjoyed our stop at this museum, but wished we’d timed our visit to coincide with a live performance. The banjo collection, said to be the largest on public display in the world, is impressive. But unless you’re really into these instruments, it’s not going to hold your interest for long. Plan on spending about 30 minutes here.