|Tommy Jarrell (left) and Fred Cockerham, |
Cockerham's house in Low Gap, N.C., 1966,
photo by J. Scott Odell
Working for several months as an intern in the Rinzler Archives, I digitized open reel tapes and consumed as much information as I could, especially about the banjo. In the fall, I returned as an archives-track graduate student in the University of Maryland’s library school program and worked with the Ralph Rinzler Papers as part of a 60-hour practicum. Feeling valued as an intern and as a graduate student worker at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage inspired me to develop a detail-oriented archival work ethic, maintain my passion for music, and pursue a personal mission to better understand the banjo and its complex history.
Archival Issues: For the time that I am here in the archives, my primary work plan is to focus on the continued processing of the Moses and Frances Asch Collection (the business records), the Ralph Rinzler Papers, and the J. Scott Odell Folk Music Collection. While I am delighted to be making notable progress on the Asch and Rinzler materials, one of the most gratifying interactive experiences has been to meet Scott Odell during his recent visits to the Rinzler Archives. Working with Odell, archivist Stephanie Smith, and archives intern Joydita Sarkar, we created a preliminary inventory of the latest accruals to the collection. While the collection reflects many of the important chapters in Odell’s career, I was, of course, immediately attracted to his banjo-related materials.
Joydita Sarkar, J. Scott Odell, and Greg C. Adams (left to right)
discussing the Odell Collection (photo by Stephanie Smith)
Public Outreach: Like many other aspects of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Scott Odell’s collection is an important access point for researchers developing a vital awareness of musicians, music, and memories linked to our shared cultural heritage. Returning to the Rinzler Archives after all these years reminds me that archival collections and the archivists who maintain them are an important part of the life cycle of records, especially as it relates to outreach. As an archivist, I am in a position to make tangible contributions to the Institution and the people it serves. As a banjo researcher, I am closer to some of the most important evidence surrounding the banjo’s function and use throughout the twentieth century. As an advocate for greater public outreach, I feel empowered by the quality of new research and greater digital access coming to our documentary heritage.