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During the period of 1916 through 1918, Cecil Sharp and his assistant Maud Karpeles, from England, spent 46 weeks traveling through the mountain regions of five Appalachian states in search of what Sharp believed to be surviving traditional English folk ballads. He had already collected these songs, as well as dances, in north and west England during the start of the folk-revival period. During this time, he collected 500 songs from 281 providers in America.
Sharp felt these traditions were fading away, and he sought to capture this piece of culture before it was gone or overtaken by modern influences. During his mountain travels, he documented many of his sources for ballads in photographs, visiting with these people many times, often staying at their homes and developing an appreciation and fondness for the mountain life in the process. The photographs taken during these years – and on display in this exhibit – are a stunning record of the Appalachian people and the times.