Rivers of Rhythm by the National Museum of African American Music

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is a new museum in Nashville, TN, focused on celebrating the lives of African American musicians while providing historical context and education to visitors.

In 2019, the museum approached Bookmobile to assist with designing and printing their exhibition catalog. The result all these months later is a beautiful book with vibrant colors, photography, and design—called Rivers of Rhythm after its flagship exhibit.

Bookmobile provided extensive project support in creating the NMAAM’s catalog, including book design and offset printing.

Design & Typesetting

First, we began with design. Using the museum’s unfinished manuscript, we created an interior page design that fit the aesthetics of their brand, including using the organization’s brand colors and blocky bars throughout to emphasize certain page elements. The project was image heavy, with sometimes up to 5 images on a spread, so this was a major consideration when creating the design. Thankfully, the large 9 x 12 trim size chosen by the museum made incorporating the photos seamless.

A sample spread showing how photography was integrated with the text. Each page was custom designed based on how many images were included for that section and the types of images being used.

The book itself is an anthology comprised of essays by different scholars in the field of African American music. Each essay also corresponds with an exhibit at the museum. To distinguish these essays from each other and to continue using the museum’s colors, we placed a colored bar at the trim edge of each page. This creates an easy way for readers to see where they are in the text and provides a colorful edge decoration, as seen here:

We began typesetting the full book once the design was approved, images were chosen, and text had been finalized. Typesetting included placing pull quotes, images, captions, and making the text look as nice as possible with all these various elements. Once typesetting was complete, we went back and forth with the museum with corrections until everything was ready for the printer.

Each essay has a prominent opening spread featuring a photograph that captures the essence of the essay/exhibit.
Pull quotes are used in key places throughout to emphasize each essay’s central message or theme.

Offset Printing

Finally, Bookmobile sourced offset printing for this large project. At the quantities the museum needed, offset printing offered the best price for their book’s specs. The book is a hardcover printed case with glossy lamination. The inside pages print in 4-color on an 80 lb. gloss white paper.

In addition to the standard printed case edition, the museum also produced a special edition hardcover, which was given to key stakeholders at the museum. The special edition features a faux-leather cover with an elegant gold foil stamp on the front and spine. The interior is the same between the two versions (called a “split run” printing).

The standard edition (top) with the special edition (bottom).

John Fleming, Director-in-Residence, and Dina Bennett, Curatorial Director, said about working with Bookmobile on this project:

The National Museum of African American Music opened in 2021 after several decades of planning and development. We selected to work with Bookmobile Design & Digital for our museum catalog because of the quality of their books.  We were pleasantly surprised by all of the services they provided that made the publication of our first exhibition catalog, Rivers of Rhythm: African Americans and the Making of American Music, a seamless process from the initial planning to the production of a first-rate publication. We would recommend Bookmobile to any museum or organization in need of an inclusive production company.

Bookmobile is honored to have been a key player in making this book a reality. We wish the museum continued success in their endeavors!

Rivers of Rhythm can be purchased from the NMAAM shop here.

Book design by Sarah Miner
Cover design by Kyle G. Hunter
Project management by Bookmobile