Kentucky Repatriation





In the fall of 1937, Alan Lomax and his wife Elizabeth traveled throughout the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, documenting the region’s traditional music for the Library of Congress. Two months later they returned to the Library with over 32 hours of recordings of ballad singers and songsters; Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal hymns; children’s game songs and lullabies; and dozens of fiddlers, guitarists, harp-blowers, and banjo players.

The farmers, coal miners, preachers, housewives, public officials, and itinerant “musicianeers” who sang into Lomax’s microphone were the inheritors and practitioners of one of America’s – and the world’s – richest musical legacies. Until now, only a fraction of these recordings have been known to the public.

In late 2011, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress undertook the digital preservation of these priceless cultural documents, transferring the 228 fragile original acetate discs to WAV files.  UK Special Collections, the AFC, and ACE are now collaborating on the online presentation of these recordings in a searchable database of streaming audio. Launch is planned for early 2015, Alan Lomax’s centennial year.



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