EVERY morning Jim Linderman gets up in his home in the small lakeside city of Grand Haven, Mich., grabs a cup of coffee and sits down at his computer to blog. Mr. Linderman, a librarian and archivist by profession, collects, researches and writes about the marginal, the forgotten and the not quite seemly in American folk art and popular culture.
Mr. Linderman has churned out 14 books on related topics in the last three years. The best known, “Take Me to the Water,” matches antique photographs of river baptisms with a CD of old gospel songs and sermons. Published by Dust-to-Digital in Atlanta, a record label that specializes in repackaging vintage music, and with an essay by Luc Sante, it was nominated for a Grammy in 2009.
“We lost to Little Walter,” Mr. Linderman said, referring to “The Complete Chess Masters (1950-1967),” a compilation of that blues harmonica player’s recordings. “Can I complain? I got to go to the show in L.A.”
He flew to Atlanta to meet Steven Lance Ledbetter, founder of Dust-to-Digital, after seeing that label’s handsome CD box set “Goodbye, Babylon,” a compilation of old gospel recordings. Mr. Ledbetter selected 24 vintage recordings of sermons and songs to go with the baptism photos, like the Empire Jubilee Quartet singing “Wade in de Water.”
As he was preparing to leave New York, Mr. Linderman donated the baptism photos to the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, which mounted an exhibition of them last year. He has also donated a collection of Victorian sideshow photos, which the center plans to exhibit. “He’s doing something that nobody else is for visual culture,” said Brian Wallis, chief curator at the center. “He’s mining the margins of what would disparagingly be called low culture but might also be called popular culture. To focus on it you have to get the stuff together, and he’s one of the world’s greatest pickers. He’s on the lookout for these oddball things. He just keeps coming up with these ideas that are so interesting.”
And he still gets up every morning to feed his blogs, which are approaching two million page hits, a far larger audience, he said, than he could have hoped to reach in the predigital age.
He also collected dozens of diddley bows, the one-stringed instrument of West African origin heard in old Southern blues recordings, handmade slingshots and toy plows, antique kimonos and Plains Indian rawhide pouches called parfleches.
“I’ll find a subject and immerse myself in it completely,” he said. “That will be all I live and breathe until I think I’ve exhausted it. Then I’ll sell it, trade it, donate it and move on to the next binge.”