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About the Site

The Project

The Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol website is based on an exhibit organized in April of 2002, as part of a conference surrounding the publication of Guthrie T. Meade's Country Music Sources. Recognizing that the exhibit provided a concise and thoughtful introduction to the roots of commercial country music, archivists at the Southern Folklife Collection decided it should be adapted to the web when the opportunity arose. The same resources would be used but the virtual exhibit would allow 78s to be seen and heard, documents to be more closely examined, and the materials in the exhibition to be accessed in a variety of ways. In addition, secondary sources used as references in creating the original exhibition could be integrated; these sources provide valuable context, and fit the online format where they would have felt out of place in the original exhibition. The website was completed in the fall of 2004.

The Process

The site was designed so that users could approach the media in a variety of ways: through the exhibition, through simple indexes, or through Archie Green's article, which provides the intellectual core of the exhibit.

It is important to emphasize that this exhibit, while utilizing digital processes, is not, strictly speaking, a digitization project, which typically implies a preservation element, but rather an exhibition of a virtual collection displayed digitally. CD-quality sound files have been created from source 78s and tapes, then compressed to .mp3 format at 128 kbps, for convenience of transmission online. Similarly, images scanned at a resolution of 150 dpi have been compressed to .jpg format at 72 dpi, to facilitate stronger performance of the site across a variety of browsers and bandwidths.

The primary software tools used to construct this site and edit its media include Macromedia Dreamweaver MX, Sony SoundForge, and Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Playing MP3 Files

If you are having trouble playing the .MP3 sound clips, you must:

1. Ensure you have a media player capable of playing .mp3 files loaded on your computer, then

2.a. Configure your browser to play the files automatically when you click on the song link,
2.b. Right click on the link, choose "Save Target As" from the menu that drops down, and save the file to a directory. Start your .MP3 player, then open the saved file to play it.

.MP3 players, such as WinAmp, are easy to find online, and, typically, free downloadable versions are offered. Follow the instructions provided with the specific software.

The Southern Folklife Collection

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. 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.

Centered around the John Edwards Memorial Collection, the SFC is especially rich in materials documenting the emergence of old-time, country-western, hillbilly, bluegrass, blues, gospel, Cajun and zydeco musics. There is also extensive documentation of the folk revival movement reflecting the tremendous interest in traditional music that has blossomed since the late 1950s. Photographs, recordings, ephemera, periodicals, and manuscript materials trace the rise of folk and bluegrass festivals in the United States; promote the study of folksong clubs, coffeehouses, fan clubs, and grassroots organizations; and chronicle the output of recording companies.

The SFC contains over 160,000 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 over 3,000 video recordings and 18 million feet of motion picture film. Other 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.

--From About the Southern Folklife Collection(

Additional Sources

Researchers who would like to dig deeper into the subjects touched upon in Hillbilly Music: Source and Symbol, should visit the Southern Folklife Collection either in person or on the web.

Other collections of significance, also accessible online, are the Library of Congress's outstanding American Memory website, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Reference sources for further study include those mentioned in the site, particularly:

Paul Kingsbury, ed. The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. The best all-around biographical resource, the Encyclopedia draws on both pioneers and contemporary artists' lives.

Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music.Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. Meade's gift to American old-time music, an exhausive study of 14,500 recordings made between 1921 and 1942.

The All Music Guide ( An indispensable resource, the All Music Guide provides biographical as well as discographical information, knowledgeable reviews, music maps, articles, and links to artists, genres, and styles in all areas of music.

 Century of Country ( contains helpful information on many country artists that may not be found elsewhere.

Internet Archive ( is a large repository of "open" sources that can be used freely for non-commercial purposes. The site's audio section contains many .mp3 files taken from old-time music 78 r.p.m. recordings. Along with these recordings is often helpful information about the artists who recorded them.


The Exhibit's Creators

Kelly Kress designed and created the original exhibit in 2002. The items, structure, and labelling information have been retained for the web exhibit.

Craig Breaden designed and created the web exhibition, including most of the digitization, in the summer and autumn of 2004, with the support of Kelly Kress, Steve Weiss, and the staff at the Southern Folklife Collection and Southern Historical Collection.

Contact Information

If you have comments or questions regarding the Hillbilly Music:
Source and Symbol Exhibit
, or the Southern Folklife Collectionin general, please use the contact SFC.