About the Collection
The James Madison Carpenter Collection is a multi-media collection documenting British and American folklore and folklife. It contains mostly traditional songs, especially sea shanties and ballads, and folk drama (mummers plays). It also includes examples of folk stories, customs, games, instrumental music, dance and dialect. Most of the items were collected during 1929–35 in England and Scotland. Other items were collected in a preliminary visit to Britain in 1928, and from parts of the United States during 1927–28 and 1935–c.1943, including some items collected by Carpenter's students.
The collection consists of papers, dictaphone cylinders, 12-inch discs, pen-and-ink drawings and photographs:
- Papers – transcriptions of the words and music of songs and ballads, the words of folk plays, dance notations, custom descriptions, transcriptions of stories and dialect examples, children's games, essays, teaching materials, letters, lists, newspaper cuttings, and notes.
- Cylinders – mostly field recordings of traditional songs, together with a smaller number of examples of mummers plays, traditional music, folktales and dialect.
- Discs – Carpenter's back-up copies of the cylinders.
- Photographs – including pictures of mummers play performers in costume, singers, and historic buildings, especially Scottish castles.
- Drawings – pen and ink drawings of mummers play characters done by George Baker, whose father had taken part in the play.
Further materials pertaining to Carpenter's life and work also form part of the collection which is now held at the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. (AFC1972/001).