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The Songbirds Guitar Museum: Our New Favorite Place on Earth

If civilization as we know it crumbles, at least we’ve put a few safeguards in place to help 23rd-century archaeologists put the pieces back together.

Timeless works of art are preserved at the Louvre. The wisdom and stories of generations are cataloged in the Library of Congress. Humanity’s agricultural progress - and our last resort food supply - is protected at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Now the precious specimens of modern guitar history have their place: the Songbirds Guitar Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The museum, which had its grand opening this past weekend, has over 1,700 specimens in its catalog, making it the world’s largest collection of vintage fretted instruments. It has around 500 on display at any one time, in a mix of permanent and rotating exhibitions.

The exhibits cover fretted instrument history from the 1920s to the 1970s, with a heavy focus on collector favorites like custom color models and other rarities from Fender, Gibson and Gretsch. The combined value of the collection registers at over $200 million USD, with the value of individual pieces ranging from $10,000 USD to $1 million USD.

This preservation and celebration of vintage guitar history was the work of Songbirds Investment Group. David Davidson, a partner with We Buy Guitars in New York City and a member of the group, worked for years to build the collection and find it a home.

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To house this jaw-dropping cohort of instruments, Davidson chose a renovated 7,500 square-foot space that used to house a model train collection on the Chattanooga Choo Choo Historic Hotel campus.

The other public faces of the museum include museum president Johnny E. Smith and ambassador Vince Gill, who both share thoughts on the collection in the video above.

Some of the crown jewels of the collection include 34 Gibson Les Paul “Bursts” from 1958 to 1960 (about 2% of all the “Bursts” in existence), around 300 custom color Fenders and 75 custom color Gibson Firebirds, rare early Gibson Flying V and Explorer specimens, a 1941 Martin D-45 and a set of instruments all made on the same day by legendary luthier Lloyd Loar.

You can visit Songbirds Guitar Museum seven days a week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Visitors can purchase general admission for $15.95 or a guided All Access Tour for $38.95. Ticket prices, hours, and directions to the museum can be found on Songbirds' website.

Check out the gallery below to see what else caught our eye while we were there.

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