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Collections Used By Berea Sound Archives Fellows

About the Leonard Roberts Papers

These are the papers and sound recordings of Kentucky folklorist, Leonard Ward Roberts (1912-1983). They are comprised mainly of correspondence, writings, folklore narrative transcriptions, audio recordings, and photographs that document his folklore research, publication, editing, and teaching from 1945 to 1983.


Adam BoothShepherdstown, West Virginia / 2014-2015 Fellow / Topics: Folklore; Appalachian Storytelling

Project: Using audio recordings from the Leonard Roberts Collection, Adam’s research focused on how storytellers put words together, the melodic and rhythmic qualities of their storytelling, and interesting or unusual phrases and colloquialisms. He found that many of the stories Roberts collected are interspersed with verse or song recited with emphasized drama. His study revealed common rhythmic elements used by many tellers from different Kentucky counties. These elements appear in similar narrative moments — even in stories with very different content. For the past three years Adam has taught courses in Appalachian storytelling, folklore and music for the Appalachian Studies minor at Shepherd University. His storytelling blends traditional folklore, music, and an awareness of contemporary Appalachia. Awards for stories and recordings include a Parents' Choice Silver Honor, Storytelling World Awards Honors, and four West Virginia Liars’ Contest wins.


Doug Boyd / Lexington, Kentucky / 2014-2015 Fellow / Topic: Oral History

Project: Doug Boyd’s Fellowship supported work involves enhancing online access to the lengthy folklore recordings in Berea’s Leonard Roberts Collection. Such recordings are not easily searchable without a transcript. Even with a transcript, the textual representation often does not correlate to what is heard on the recording. Doug will be exploring the adaptability to these folklore recordings of the web-based Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). OHMS allows indexing audio directly without transcription. Doug’s work will result in 18 recordings from the Roberts folklore collection being indexed and made searchable online. He will also work with Special Collections staff to develop staffing patterns and work flows, toward the end of using OHMS more extensively to make Berea’s spoken word recordings easily accessible and searchable. Doug received his Ph.D. degree in Folklore from Indiana University. He is the Director of the Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky and regularly writes, lectures, and consults on oral history and digital technologies, archives, and digital preservation.


Mary Hamilton / Frankfort, Kentucky / 2009-2010 / Topic: Folklore

Mary HamiltonProject: Mary Hamilton has been a professional storyteller since 1983. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Jesse Stuart Award presented by the Kentucky School Media Association for her body of work telling stories in Kentucky schools.

Her Fellowship research made use of the sound recordings in Berea's Leonard Roberts Collection of Kentucky folklore, many of which date from the 1950s and 1960s. She compared and contrasted different versions of the same folktale collected from a variety of children and adults in southeastern Kentucky. Hearing how the stories were told provided insight into them that is not possible from reading printed text alone.

The primary outcome of her research was identification of stories for presentations in Kentucky schools, libraries, and  museums. Also accomplished were professional conference presentations, Kentucky Arts Council residencies, and "Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies" a book of Kentucky folktales retold.


Brian Harnetty / Columbus, Ohio / 2005-2006 / Topics: Experimental Music; New Compositions

Brian HarnettyProject: Harnetty focused on identifying and analyzing traditional music for incorporation in a large-scale multiple media work entitled american winter. Brian is from Columbus, Ohio, and received his Master of Music in Composition degree from the Royal Academy of Music in London in 2000. Recently he has served as visiting professor of music at Kenyon College and is presently collaborating on an energy related video project with Appalshop. 


Saro Lynch-Thomason / Ashville, North Carolina / 2012-2013 / Topic: Appalachian Ballads

Saro Lynch-ThomasonProject: Saro's Fellowship research will make use of audio recordings in Berea's Leonard Roberts Collection to study Kentucky ballads which have mostly fallen out of oral tradition. She will build a singing repertoire of between 25- 30 pieces with the object of revitalizing these rare stories and melodies in Southern Appalachian singing communities. Follow Saro’s research progress on her project blog.

Activities toward this end will include a series of knee-to-knee teaching workshops in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina; an on-line teaching resource with recordings; and development of a show exclusively featuring songs from this repertoire, including stories and memories from the source singers.

Saro's previous traditional music research and production work includes Blair Pathways, a musical exploration of the West Virginia Coal Wars (1902-1921) via a 20-track CD and multipage historic narrative. She also sings at numerous regional festivals, teaches in ballad-singing workshops, and leads a weekly community singing group that trades and teaches songs.


Susan Mills / Boone, North Carolina / 2006-2007 / Topic: Folklore

Susan MillsProject: Susan is the Coordinator of Music Education at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Her traditional music involvement started with high school folk dance activities in Pulaski County, Kentucky and eventually included playing bass and piano for folk dance groups and at commercial country and bluegrass venues in Florida. She has taught music at the elementary and middle school level and is presently involved in training other music educators. Beginning in June, her Fellowship work at Berea will focus on the development of Appalachian music teaching resources for elementary and middle school music classes that meet state and national music education standards. These resources will be derived mainly from audio and manuscript materials in Berea’s Leonard Roberts Folklore Collection and be made available through a teaching resources website, journal publications, classroom lecture/demonstrations, and music education in-service workshops.


Cassie Patterson / Columbus, Ohio / 2010-2011 / Topic: Teaching; Folklore

Cassie PattersonProject: Cassie Patterson is a PhD student in the English department at Ohio State University. Her areas of study are Folklore, Ethnography, Appalachian Studies and Literary Studies. Her Fellowship project was in furtherance of her doctoral research which addresses the complexity of Appalachian educational practices, both historical and contemporary. She is especially interested in how interventions by outsiders collide with local community traditions, both as critique and romanticization of culture.

The primary focus of her Fellowship work was the audio recordings in Berea's Leonard Roberts Collection that documented Roberts' use of folktales as a teaching resource. A secondary focus was the early records that documented educational philosophy and methodology of Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County, Kentucky where in later years, Leonard Roberts was a teacher. A near term outcome of her Fellowship study is a conference paper at the American Folklore Society annual meeting in Nashville, October 2010.


William Sears / Williamsburg, Kentucky / 2007-2008 / Topics: Radio Programs; Appalachian Music

William SearsProject: William is a fiddler and recent graduate of the University of Kentucky where he majored in Agriculture and Agricultural Biotechnology. His interest in homemade music developed from family and community associations growing up during the 1980s and 1990s in rural Whitley County, Kentucky about halfway between Williamsburg and Corbin. He started playing the fiddle at age twelve. Besides older fiddlers, his musical models and mentors have included singers, banjo players, and other musicians, many now up in years, who are railroad workers, farmers and public school teachers.

His study in the Berea Archives will be directed toward gaining an understanding of how his community's traditions of homemade music compare and contrast with those of adjacent counties and other parts of the state generally. Audio sources to be drawn upon include early commercial recordings of such groups as Walker's Corbin Ramblers and the later field recordings of Whitley County area musicians and singers made by Leonard Roberts and Loyal Jones. Work in the Archives will alternate with interview and performance recording of several Whitley and perhaps nearby McCreary County musicians and singers, none of whom have been documented previously.

Residency outcomes include a webpage exhibit featuring audio and contextual material documenting a sampling of some of the regional musicians that will be documented.