The James Madison Carpenter Collection Project

The James Madison Carpenter Collection Project

James Madison Carpenter (James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001 Photo 099)The James Madison Carpenter Collection is an extensive collection of traditional songs and folk (mummers') plays  recorded between 1927 and c.1943. The collection was made by Dr James Madison Carpenter (1888–1983) using a dictaphone machine and portable typewriter. Most of the items date from 1928–1935, when Carpenter carried out fieldwork in Britain; the remainder were gathered in parts of the US.

Although Carpenter edited some of the corpus, it was never published. He sold the collection, which comprises papers, wax cylinders, lacquer discs, photographs and drawings, to the Library of Congress in 1972. The collection has since been digitised.

The James Madison Carpenter Collection Project was initiated in 2001 by a team of scholars based in the UK and US. We have produced an online catalogue of the collection (joint recipient of the Brenda McCallum Prize of the American Folklore Society, 2003). Since 2004 we have been preparing a scholarly edition, largely funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (US) and the British Academy (UK). The edition is a multivolume work, arranged by genre, intended to enhance access to the collection for scholarship and performance, and to promote its use and appreciation.

The first volumes of A Critical Edition of the James Madison Carpenter Collection are soon to be published by the University Press of Mississippi in hard-copy and electronic formats.

Meanwhile, we are working in partnership with the English Folk Dance and Song Society to integrate the digitised collection into the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Digital Archive.