Blowing Rock Art & History Museum

Cecil Sharp Historic Photographs – November 30, 2017 – January 31, 2018

Rare photographs of Southern Appalachia during 1916-1918

This is the first US exhibit of rare, century-old photos taken by British song collector Cecil Sharp. The photographs feature some of the singers Sharp visited during his travels. Cecil Sharp and his assistant Maud Karpeles collected variants of English ballads between 1916-1918; their collecting work began in Hot Springs, NC, with the help of Olive Campbell, founder of the John C. Campbell Folk School. By the end of their 46-week travels through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, the pair had collected more than 1600 variants of English ballads collected from 281 singers.
While the songs have been published, photos of the singers taken by Sharp have never been exhibited in the United States. The exhibit is part of a three-year centennial observance of Sharp’s and Karpeles’ work.
Project coordinator Donald Hughes of Rougemont, NC, explains. “Sharp would send photos back to the singers as a gift of remembrance. The strong desire to document and the personal nature of his relationship with the Appalachian people resulted in a set of powerful and introspective images for history to hold.”
Sharp summarized the travels, writing, “It is no exaggeration to say that some of the hours I passed sitting on the porch (i.e. verandah) of a log-cabin, talking and listening to songs were amongst the pleasantest I have ever spent.”
These photographs are on display with permission from the English Folk Dance & Song Society, Cecil Sharp House, London.   More Information