Gifts and Grants, Music, Southern Folklife Collection, Special Collections

Grants Will Preserve Rare Music Recordings in Southern Folklife Collection


Rare music recordings in the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library will be digitized thanks to a pair of grants.

Two grants totaling $45,000 will help to preserve rare musical recordings in the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. The recordings include performances by traditional North Carolina musicians Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten and Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson.

Using awards from the GRAMMY Foundation ($20,000) and the National Recording Preservation Foundation ($25,000), the SFC will create archival copies of the fragile recordings and place them online for the first time.

“These sounds are a national treasure,” said Steve Weiss, curator of the SFC. “We cannot wait to bring them to fresh generations of listeners, researchers, students, and fans.”

The materials will be accessible online through the Southern Folklife Collection website at beginning in October of this year. Users will need to be on the UNC campus in order to stream the recordings.

GRAMMY Foundation: McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection

In 2015, the SFC acquired more than 2,000 audio recordings of live performances that took place at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica between 1967 and 2008.

McCabe’s has long been an iconic and intimate venue for leading roots music artists, including Libba Cotten, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, John Fahey, John Hammond, Bill Monroe, Odetta, Jean Ritchie, Dave Van Ronk, Mike Seeger, Ralph Stanley, Merle Travis, Doc Watson, Kate Wolf, and Townes Van Zandt.

“It was important that these taped recordings, which are old and fragile and have significant scholarly value, go to a place where they would be carefully conditioned and conserved,” McCabe’s owner Bob Riskin said upon donating the thousands of hours of recordings. “When I began to think of who should receive the gift, several knowledgeable people I respect, including my sound engineers, all said the best choice would be the University of North Carolina.”

The SFC will use the grant from the GRAMMY Foundation to place the entirety of the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection online.

National Recording Preservation Foundation: Music from the True Vine: Preserving the Mike Seeger Collection

Mike Seeger (1933-2009) was part of the first family of American folk music. His parents, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Charles Seeger, assisted John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folksong in the Library of Congress. His brother Pete and sister Peggy were musicians. In 1958, Mike Seeger helped form the New Lost City Ramblers, a trio that influenced several generations of musicians, including Bob Dylan.

From the 1950s through the early 2000s, Mike Seeger also collected interviews, made field and studio recordings of musicians, and documented live performances. A number of his field recordings served as masters for the classic releases that he produced for Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways) and Rounder Records.

The Mike Seeger Collection provides invaluable documentation of the folk revival movement and captures historic performances by artists that include Elizabeth Cotton, Hazel Dickens, Tommy Jarrell, Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb, and Almeda Riddle.

Through this project, the SFC will digitize and make available more than 600 hours of recordings from the Mike Seeger Collection.

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