The Southern Folklife collection (SFC) ranks as one of the nation’s foremost archival resources for the study of American folk music and popular culture. Located in the Manuscripts Department of the Academic Affairs Library (Wilson Library) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the SFC holdings extensively document all forms of southern musical and oral traditions across the entire spectrum of individual and community expressive arts, as well as mainstream media production.
Begun as the UNC Folklore Archives in 1968 by the faculty of the Curriculum in folklore, the Southern Folklife Collection was officially opened for research during the Sounds of the South conference at UNC Chapel Hill in April 1989. With the John Edwards Memorial Collection at its center, the Southern Folklife Collection is especially rich in materials documenting the emergence of old-time, country-western, hillbilly, bluegrass, blues, gospel, Cajun, and zydeco musics. The collection contains more than 82,000 sound recordings including cylinders, acetate discs, wire recordings, 78 rpm and 45 rpm discs, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and open reel tapes. Moving image materials include more than 3,000 video recordings and 18 million feet of motion picture film. Paper-based materials include thousands of photographs, song folios, posters, manuscript materials, ephemeral items and research files, as well as an exceptionally strong collection of discographical materials for the 78 rpm era.
Activities at the Southern Folklife Collection include audio preservation and access projects. One, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, focuses on at-risk archival materials related to African American culture and history. Another, funded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, helps the collection preserve and provide access to its Broadside Collection—a collection of recordings of topical folk songs made for Broadside magazine in which many of the folk revival’s most important singers appear. Together with the John Edwards Memorial Forum, the Southern Folklife Collection published Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music by Guthrie Meade, Dick Spottswood, and Douglas Meade.
The collection is collaborating with the North Carolina Folklife Institute to produce a series of recordings from the archives, beginning with a CD of the music of western North Carolina fiddler Marcus Martin.