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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lorenzo Dow Turner papers

Pioneering linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner proved through scientific research and audio recordings that the Gullah language, spoken in the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia by descendants of African slaves, retained African words and expressions and conveyed cultural traditions. The Lorenzo Dow Turner papers at the Anacostia Community Museum Archives contain approximately 110 field recordings made by Turner in the United States, Brazil, and Africa; they include songs, stories, and poems used by Turner for his seminal work, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Although the bulk of the field recordings made by Turner are held by the Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University, Bloomington, the holdings at Anacostia Community Museum Archives have major research value and supplement the holdings at Indiana University.

Dr. Turner recording in Africa.  Many times Turner ran the recorder in Africa
using the battery of his truck as a source of energy.
Recently, Anacostia Community Museum received a grant from the Collections Care and Preservation Fund, administered by the National Collections Program and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee, to support the preservation and digitization of these recordings produced between the 1930s and 1950s. Once the project is complete, we look forward to making the recordings available through reference copies during on-site visits to our archives and through catalogue records in SIRIS. In the meantime, the archives staff is digitizing photographs taken by Professor Turner in Africa, Brazil, and the United States. You can view a sampling of those images here. To learn more about Lorenzo Dow Turner, check out Margaret Wade-Lewis’s biography, Lorenzo Dow Turner: Father of Gullah Studies. You can also view the Finding Aid to Lorenzo Dow Turner papers at the Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University Library.

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum

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