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Past Exhibitions

Cecil Sharp in Appalachia

Cecil Sharp in Appalachia

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 bal-lads 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 Ten-nessee, 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.”

On loan from the Country Dance and Song Society, with permission of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Cecil Sharp House, London.

For more information on the work and travels of Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles visit