TSLA Releases a New Digital Collection Showcasing Tennessee Folklife

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
What do roley hole marbles, white oak baskets, shape-note singing, and banjoes have in common? All are examples of Tennessee folk culture or "folkways" available online in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ newest digital collection: "Tennessee State Parks Folklife Project Collection, 1979-1984." The collection documents folk culture unique to Tennessee and highlights Tennessee's significant contributions to national studies of folklife.

In the late 1970s, Bobby Fulcher of the Tennessee Division of Parks and Recreation began a concerted effort to document and preserve Tennessee's diverse folk culture.

The Tennessee State Parks Folklife Project was designed to contact and record interviews with local musicians, craftsmen, and storytellers in communities around six state parks; present programs in the parks using those local people; document on film and audio tape the folk art and folklore of the area; and organize and present annual community folk arts festivals within state parks. Folklorists Jay Orr, Elaine Lawless, and Raymond Allen all made significant contributions to the project.

This project produced more than 500 hours of audio tape, 9600 slides, and 2,200 black and white negatives, including duplicates of scores of historic photographs which had been cached for years by their owners. The recordings, held originally on reel-to-reel and cassettes and the accompanying photographs include material on traditional quilting, burial customs, storytelling, blacksmithing, herbal medicine, fishing, logging, farming techniques, and music. Nationally recognized ballad singers Dee and Delta Hicks and Joe, Ethel, and Creed Birchfield (founding members of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers) are just a few of the musical artists featured in the collection.

Several years ago, the Tennessee State Library and Archives initiated a project to digitize selections of the audio recordings and photographs from the collection in order to improve public access. The recordings and images found in this collection represent just a sample of the rich material yet to be discovered. The digitization project is ongoing, and TSLA will add items as they become available. The collection may be found at http://www.tn.gov/tsla/TeVAsites/TSPFolklife/index.htm.

TSLA Conservator Carol Roberts will give a presentation on the collection in the TSLA auditorium, located at 403 7th Avenue North in downtown Nashville, from noon to 1 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 12. The program is free and open to the public.

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