Marty Stuart inside the warehouse as his country music collection is being unpacked.
Marty Stuart inside the warehouse as his country music collection is being unpacked.
Country music star Marty Stuart returned to his hometown on Tuesday just in time to see his vast collection of country music memorabilia, including some belonging to such stars as Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, be unloaded from two tractor trailers and set up inside the warehouse on Center Avenue. The collection will eventually be on display in the proposed Marty Stuart Center.

“This is 95 percent of what was in my warehouse in Tennessee that applies to this story down here,” Stuart said. “A little more will trickle down, but this is pretty much it.”

While an actual building for the Marty Stuart Center has not been secured,  Stuart said a decision is close.

“They are still flirting with a place for the museum,” he said.

Stuart’s collection is the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world and has been recognized by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.

Items from the collection will be changed periodically from the warehouse to the museum in order to attract visitors on a continual basis.

Some pieces have held residence in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry Museum, Grammy Museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and several others around the nation and world.

The Marty Stuart Center stems from the Mississippi Country Music Commission which called Stuart's collection “a living history of country music” which would be “the heart of a center” in Philadelphia.

Taking charge of getting the collection into the warehouse and unpacked Tuesday were Brenda Colliday, who previously served as curator of the Grand Ole Opry Museum for 18 years, and Maria-Elena Orbear, Stuart’s assistant for the past 20 years or more.

“They dismissed me about a month ago,” Stuart said, noting that the two had been packaging, numbering, curating and inventorying the collection in recent weeks.

“We have a rough layout in our heads of what goes in what room,” he said of the two-story warehouse space. “Hopefully, by the end of the week it will kinda be sketched out. It will take a series of trips back and forth down here just to get the warehouse set where we can work out of it.”

After years of working with local and state officials and others, Stuart is happy to see the museum moving closer to a reality.

“If you come down here and hold Johnny Cash’s boots in your hands or Hank Williams’ guitar, it comes to life and it becomes a part of you and you realize how much a part of you those people are.”

The collection also includes Merle Haggard’s guitar, suit, hat and handwritten lyrics to “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Stuart said.

Stuart believes the center will “become the heart of the new Philadelphia, Miss.  It will become a brand new energy source and a beacon of light leaving Philadelphia, Miss., in all directions.”

While northern Mississippi is home to Elvis, B. B. King and a new Grammy Museum, the Marty Stuart Center will be for central Mississippi.

“When the true word gets out the world will know, what you and I have always known about this town, how precious it is and the people in it.  Any town in America would be grateful to get this,” he said.

Stuart predicts that it could take up to five years to get the Marty Stuart Center in operation.

“I think as these kinds of projects go, I would say between three to five years before you cut ribbon and everybody is doing a happy dance on Beacon Street,” he said. “When you are working hard to raise funds, it takes that long to do it right. I would rather it go back to Burnside and live in a warehouse than for it to be done anything less than world class, Smithsonian standards.  That’s the kind of place this town deserves.”

Stuart, a Neshoba County native, has said the center would be a combination of a museum, theater and classroom.

While the center would house the collection, the theater would be for small performances.

The classroom was described as a place for oral histories.