Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fellowship Presentation 12/18

As our Fellowship draws to a close, we are excited about what we've accomplished and what remains to be done! 

We are very busy digitizing 45's and additional photos we found...

 ...sifting through archival collections...

...and now preparing for our Fellowship presentation!

We will be sharing an hour-long presentation with another Sound Archives Fellow (Meredith Doster) on Friday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. at the Berea College Hutchins Library.  We're not sure which room yet, but it will likely be one of the multi-media classrooms downstairs on the ground floor. The event is open to the public, and there will be light refreshments.

We would love to see some of our friends, colleagues, and supporters next Friday even though it's close to the holiday. Rest assured, there will be other presentations in the future as well. We were recently informed that our multi-media proposal for the Appalachian Studies Conference in March was accepted, so we're also looking forward to updating all the happy Appy folks in Georgia!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Harry Rice Oral History *

The following oral history interview with Harry Rice, Berea College Sound Archivist, covers a variety of topics, including Harry's personal and educational background; his work in Special Collections and Sound Archives; the Appalachian Music/Sound Archives Fellowship; and the significance of Frances and John Reedy's music and documentation.

We learned a lot about Harry that we didn't know in terms of where he grew up and went to college. Timi was surprised and pleased to learn that he had lived and worked in the counties and towns in Eastern Kentucky that she is most familiar with (Barbourville, Corbin, etc.). Harry answered most of our prepared questions without being prompted and in general was an excellent interviewee who needed little guidance. He also offered some good insights about oral histories and archives that are inspiring and useful.

The overall interview is about 40 minutes long, which is relatively short given Harry's background, knowledge, and experience. There is especially much more that could be said about the Reedy project in particular, so we anticipate that we would like to interview him again at some point. He also has a special interest in David Lundy of Lundy Records in Barbourville, and he would like to meet with him in the near future to discuss his recollections and musical collections. We hope to facilitate this meeting in addition to setting up an oral history interview with Mr. Lundy. 

* We conducted this interview with Harry Rice in conjunction with our Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship as well as the Community Scholars Program sponsored by the Kentucky Folklife Program.  The contextual information is excerpted from the corresponding "Interview Log" and "Field Notes" that we completed as part of our overall graduation requirements to become Community Scholars.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frankie & Johnny at Dogpatch

An Archival Document Analysis Exercise*
John and Frances Reedy at Dogpatch, KY

This photo is of John and Frances Reedy, and they appear to be in their 20's or 30's. Their real clothes are not visible because they are posing with their heads peeking through cut-outs in a painted set. The costume cut-out is of a stereotypical hillbilly man and woman.

John and Frances are clearly having a good time posing for the photo. Because it is a novelty photograph, they were likely visiting a tourist destination, but they may or may not have been visiting as tourists. Because the photo was cut in half and remained in separate pieces in Frances' collection of photos, this picture also more subtly depicts John and Frances at another, later stage in life when they were briefly divorced.

The photo was taken in the daytime at Dogpatch, Kentucky, a tourist destination in Eastern Kentucky. The exact date is difficult to determine because we can not see John and Frances' real clothing, but in comparison to other photos of them at similar ages, the photo was likely taken in the late 1940's or early 1950's. Again, it would be easier to tell the season of the year based on their actual clothing, but the little glimpse of leaves on the tree in the upper right-hand corner indicate it was probably during spring or summer.

The only really visible objects in the photo include the wooden costume cut-out, a wooden fence behind it, a telephone pole in the distance behind it, and the small patch of leaves on a tree in the upper right-hand corner. The sign on the fence is clearly a helpful reference that identifies their exact location. Otherwise, the most telling aspects of the photo are the significance of both the hillbilly costumes and the severing of familial ties when Frances cut the photo in two.

The picture was probably taken by a professional photographer for a fee since it was a staged scene at a tourist destination. However, it is also possible that people were allowed to take their own photos with the cut-out as the setting, in which case it could have been taken by a family member such as John's brother or sisters. The purpose of the photo is ambiguous because John and Frances were originally from Harlan, Kentucky, so the hillbilly photo would represent a different novelty than for the typical tourist at Dogpatch.

This photograph tells a couple of stories, both within the actual timeframe when it was taken as well as temporally beyond it's creation to when it was at least partially destroyed by being cut in half. The hillbilly costumes likely represent John and Frances' Appalachian heritage and love for their native home during a time when they had already moved to Dayton, Ohio to work in the factories. This would most likely place the timing of the photo during the 1950's as they were living in Dayton by around 1953. While they lived in Ohio during the workweek, they traveled home to Kentucky every weekend, so the trip to Dogpatch could have either been a pleasure visit or a destination where the Reedys were booked for a musical performance. The hillbilly costumes are also a play on the Reedy's sometime musical moniker as the “Stone Mountain Hillbillies.”

They appear happy, and the hillbilly cut-out emulates their status as a couple. This makes the subsequent story about the rending of the photograph even more significant, as the severing of the couple in the picture symbolically represents the separation of the couple later in real life. The fact that Frances never taped the picture back together also implies that she may never have fully forgiven her husband, but nevertheless she kept both halves in a keepsake box with other family photos.

It would be helpful to know the actual date of the photo, which would make more clear the relevance of their visit and the photograph when it was taken. It would also be good to know more about Dogpatch as a tourist destination and whether it was also a musical venue at which they might have played. John and Frances' son Tim Reedy or one of his cousins might be able to provide more information about the timing and purpose of their visit to Dogpatch.

* The archival document analysis exercise was one of our graduation requirements for our Community Scholar program. Items for analysis included artifacts, documents, or photographs. The exercise included several questions as a guide to the kinds of observations to make and document, but it flowed even better when I removed them to create a cohesive narrative. This picture had too much to tell to not use it for the analysis, and its stories are too interesting not to share.  

p.s. We're now officially certified as Community Scholars! It's good to be recognized for something we already are...


(20 Dec. 4:56 pm)

Here's the press release about the Community Scholars graduates: It erroneously refers to the graduates as "Fourteen Laurel Countians," when the class simply took place in London. There were several folks from Laurel County, but also from Rockcastle, Harlan, Madison, Rowen, Jackson, and Casey Counties!