NC Jukebox (2016-2017)

In the 1930s Duke scholar Frank Clyde Brown began recording and archiving folk music from western North Carolina. Most of those recordings were housed on wax cylinders and glass discs in the Duke Libraries. Blending technology, cultural history and music, this Bass Connections project transformed an inaccessible audio archive into a vital, publicly accessible digital archive and museum exhibition.

The project team curated an exhibition and an online playlist of the “greatest hits” of the Frank Clyde Brown collection, created metadata standards and built library infrastructure. Team members researched biographies of the singers, transcribed the songs and traced the Scotch-English history, variations and contemporary analogues of the songs. Cultural history is a complex process of selection, presentation and interpretation by multiple agents. The team focused on African American singers and songs left out of the original published collection because they didn’t fit the “correct” musical profile for the edited collection. By adding information about these worksongs, prisons and religious genres, the team filled in an important piece of cultural history.

Team members 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.

An exhibition featuring the Frank Clyde Brown collection and materials from the NC Jukebox project was on view at Duke’s Rubenstein Library in Fall 2016.

One of the project’s aims was to return the music to the North Carolina communities of origin and critically engage with the ethics of repatriation. More than 100 people attended a special NC Jukebox event at the Orchards of Altapass in western North Carolina. Three student team members gave a presentation about several singers in the Frank Brown collection. 


Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Archives Alive: The North Carolina Jukebox Project (Trudi Abel, Victoria Szabo, Winston Atkins, Meg Brown, Louise Mentjes, Laura Williams, Meghan O’Neil, Abigail Bolton, Bao Doan, Tyler Goldberger, Yunhee Kang, Adriana Lapuerta, Jon Levine, Julie Min, Jaymin Patel, Sophie Polson, Ben Stone, Jaehoon Sung)

Teaching with Archival Music: The NC Jukebox Project (presentation by Trudi Abel and Victoria Szabo, Southeast Chapter of the Music Library Association annual meeting, Durham, NC, October 21, 2016)

The Common Ground We Meet Upon: Music Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (exhibition featuring the Frank Clyde Brown collection and materials from the NC Jukebox project; Mary Duke Biddle Room, Rubenstein Library, Duke University; August 1–November 1, 2016)

Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research Award: Adriana Lapuerta, Computer Science

NC Jukebox special event featuring musician Terry McKinney and members of the NC Jukebox team, The Orchard at Altapass, Spruce Pine, NC, April 22, 2017

This Team in the News

These Ph.D. Graduates Played Key Roles in Their Bass Connections Projects

Student Tracks History of Folk Music Across Mountains and Sea

Finding Your Way: Cultivating Humanistic Versatility

Podcast: Figuring It Out, Episode 1: Meghan O’Neil, English

A Deep Dive into North Carolina’s Musical History

Student Laurels and Honors for 2017

Students Present Their Research and Learn from Each Other at the Bass Connections Showcase

Twelve Students Receive Grants to Take Their Bass Connections Research Further

Special Event Will Highlight a Duke Collection of Traditional Music from Western North Carolina

Reflections on Mentoring from Bass Connections Graduate Students

Visiting Our Past: Myron Houston, Mountain Tale-teller

Bass Online Apprentice Develops Diverse Skill Set to Teach Online

Meet the Members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council

An Exhibit of How Music Is Our Common Ground

On the Road with the Frank C. Brown Collection

See earlier related team, NC Jukebox (2015-2016). This project was selected by the Franklin Humanities Institute as a humanities-connected project. Humanities Writ Large provided additional support for this project.

Team Leaders

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

/graduate Team Members

  • Shawnee Becker, Liberal Studies-AM
  • Meghan O'Neil, English-PHD
  • Katie Eller, Liberal Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Adriana Lapuerta, Computer Science (AB)
  • Jaehoon Sung, Biomedical Engineering (BSE), Electrical Engineering (BSE2)
  • Ben Stone, Evolutionary Anthropology (AB)
  • Sophie Polson, Computer Science (BS)
  • Julie Min, English (AB)
  • Jonathan Levine, Economics (BS)
  • Tyler Goldberger, History (AB)
  • Bao Doan, Economics (BS), Computer Science (BS2)
  • Abigail Bolton, History (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Winston Atkins, Duke Libraries
  • Phillip MacDonald, Cus-Coll Dev
  • Louise Meintjes, Arts & Sciences-Music
  • Meg Brown, Duke Libraries
  • Craig Breaden, Duke Libraries
  • Laura Williams, Duke Libraries

/zcommunity Team Members

  • The Orchard at Altapass