A featured article in UVA Today, “Digging into the Archives, UVA Library Brings Old Folksong Recordings to Light,” tells about a Library project to digitize 1930s field recordings of traditional Virginia ballad singers. The recordings, mostly of Appalachian singers, many from Albemarle County, were made for the Virginia Folklore Society by UVA English Instructor Arthur Kyle Davis, Jr., using the latest recording technology available in the ’30s — aluminum discs.
The project to digitize the discs is being funding by a grant from the “Recordings at Risk” program of the Andrew W. Mellon foundation –173 of the discs (about 700 songs) are available online. Have a listen!
The papers of the Virginia Folklore Society that Davis bequeathed to UVA are available in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, including documentation of his collaboration with Lorenzo Dow Turner, an African American linguist who used the same aluminum disc recorder to record the Gullah language spoken in communities of African Americans in South Carolina and Georgia.
For more about the project and Davis’ work, read the article “Digging into the Archives, UVA Library Brings Old Folksong Recordings to Light” (UVA Today 1/27/2020).