The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is proud to present The Appalachian Photographs of Cecil Sharp, 1916 to 1918, on display in the Special Exhibits Gallery at the museum now through May 31, 2018.
“The songs and musical traditions that were brought over by the English and Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in Appalachia are part of the story of early hillbilly and traditional music, and so this exhibit focused on Cecil Sharp and his exploration of those connections with Maud Karpeles and Olive Dame Campbell is a wonderful fit for us,” says Head Curator René Rodgers. “The photographs he took while he traveled around Appalachia are poignant and expressive, and the captions, taken from his diaries and letters, underline the affinity he felt with the singers he met and his interest in their everyday lives.”
During the period of 1916 through 1918, Cecil Sharp and his assistant Maud Karpeles, from England, spent 46 weeks traveling through the mountain regions of five Appalachian states in search of what Sharp believed to be surviving traditional English folk ballads. He had already collected these songs, as well as dances, in north and west England during the start of the folk-revival period. During this time, he collected 500 songs from 281 providers in America.
Sharp felt these traditions were fading away, and therefore he sought to capture this piece of culture before it was gone or overtaken by modern influences. During his mountain travels, he documented many of his sources for ballads in photographs, visiting with these people many times, often staying at their homes and developing an appreciation and fondness for the mountain life in the process. The photographs taken during these years and on display in this exhibit are a stunning record of the Appalachian people and the times.
The exhibition consists of framed prints and photographs, a period camera, and period books of ballads and folk and nursery songs from Appalachia. A related program, “Strong Mountain Women: How Ballads Power People. Songs and Stories from the Appalachian Collections of Cecil Sharp, Maud Karpeles, and Olive Dame Campbell,” will be held on Friday, April 6 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST. The event will feature a talk by Donald Hughes, exhibit curator, and a performance by eighth-generation North Carolina ballad singer and storyteller Donna Ray Norton. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at BirthplaceofCountryMusic.org.
The Appalachian Photographs of Cecil Sharp, 1916-1918 is on loan from The Country Dance and Song Society with permission of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. For more information about the special exhibit and to plan your visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/museum.