NC Jukebox (2015-2016)

This project focused on transforming an inaccessible audio archive of historic North Carolina folk music into a vital, publicly accessible digital archive and museum exhibition. Nearly 97 years ago and into the 1930s, Frank C. Brown, a Duke scholar, began recording North Carolina folk music and archiving it for posterity. Most of those recordings are still housed on glass discs in Rubenstein Library.

The team’s objectives were to explore this “hidden” collection of folk music recordings; create media-rich, sustainable archives and exhibitions for diverse audiences and purposes; return the music to the North Carolina communities of origin and critically engage with the ethics of repatriation; and engage deeply in a public-facing digital humanities teaching and research project.

Cultural history is a complex process of selection, presentation and interpretation by multiple agents. Bringing cultural heritage to life is a vital part of Duke’s mission of knowledge in the service of society. Team members performed collaborative research on individual singers and songs in the Frank C. Brown collection of folk song performances; developed a data model, template and software framework for the online archive and mobile application; conducted a study of the archive’s effectiveness with diverse audiences, including heritage musicians; and explored techniques for data mining incomplete and fragmentary, audio, visual and textual materials.

The impact of the archive will be assessed through scholarly and public responses to the team’s research findings, digital archives and physical and virtual exhibitions. Student team members’ research contributed to an exhibition and electronic kiosk at the Rubenstein Library (August 1–November 1, 2016).


Fall 2015 – Summer 2016

Team Outcomes

NC Jukebox (project website)

The North Carolina Jukebox Project: Archives Alive and the Making of Digital Cultural Heritage (presentation by Victoria Szabo at Digital Humanities 2016, Kraków, Poland, July 15, 2016)

Archives Alive: Activating the North Carolina Jukebox (presentation by Victoria Szabo at HASTAC 2016, Tempe, Arizona, May 12, 2016)

The Archive of the Archive: The Ethics of Ownership and Repatriation of Indigenous Field Recordings (presentation by Aaron Fox sponsored by the NC Jukebox project, Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics, April 4, 2016)

Using Omeka for Online Archive Development (workshop for Society of North Carolina Archivists by Trudi Abel and Victoria Szabo, March 30, 2016)

Archives Alive: The North Carolina Jukebox Project (poster by Trudi Abel, Victoria Szabo, Louise Mentjes, Laura Williams, Winston Atkins, Craig Breaden, Meghan O’Neil, Philip MacDonald, Peter Ciporin, Ruochen Hao, Laura Perez, Jaehoon Sung, Alina Walling)

This Team in the News

Visiting Our Past: 1930s a Golden Age for Music in WNC

That Old Refrain

Library Receives Grant to Digitize Early Twentieth-century Folk Music

Archives Alive: Students Dive into the Rubenstein

Archives Alive: The North Carolina Jukebox Project

See related team, NC Jukebox (2016-2017).

The Forum for Scholars and Publics and Kenan Institute for Ethics provided additional support for this project. This project was selected by the Franklin Humanities Institute as a humanities-connected project.

Team Leaders

  • Trudi Abel, Duke Libraries
  • Victoria Szabo, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

/graduate Team Members

  • Meghan O'Neil, English-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Peter Ciporin, Computer Science (BS)
  • Ruochen Hao, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE)
  • Laura Perez, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Jaehoon Sung, Biomedical Engineering (BSE), Electrical Engineering (BSE2)
  • Alina Walling, Program II (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Winston Atkins, Duke Libraries
  • Louise Meintjes, Arts & Sciences-Music
  • Laura Williams, Duke Libraries

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Rubenstein Libraries/Digital Collections
  • The Orchard at Altapass