You Can Tour This Banjo Museum Without Getting Up From Your Couch


For more than fifteen years Boston area filmmaker mark fields has been on a quest to capture and share the story the banjo he's assembled more than three hundred hours of original video and piles of research that's the fuel for his new banjo museum you don't need to leave the couch to visit as Andrea que of member station W. B. O. R. reports mark fields production team as wiring up collector Jim Bowman and his rare eighteen fifty eight Fangio testing one two three four Warren Bowman's artifact field home just outside Boston it's a place that I came to when I first started this project and realize how much there is about the banjo which people don't know about in which people should know about that's it feels he says Bowman's trove of two hundred plus instruments and Gander related stuff is a portal into America's social history and Bowman is happy to share it with a lot more people the whole fuddy Duddy and being electronically challenged all my information is on three by five cards in the collection and yet he can bring that to the digital age for wrong so what was what I'm gonna play a tune called Vance's song which was written about double Vance who lose you'll recall a legend of West Virginia okay we're gonna back in his office in nearby Emerson College fields leads the tour and his digital museum in the making called the banjo project it includes interactive timelines archival footage of famous players and dynamic displays of the instruments themselves field zooms in on one photographed in three hundred and sixty degrees you can look at the detail all the way down to the grain of the wood the brackets the hardware then with the click of his mouse fields does what would be alarm tripping in most museums he flips the banjo over so we can see the maker signature on its back the banjo project traces the instrument's history from its African origins to the present day do interviews with historians makers and such contemporary performers as Rhiannon Giddens cofounder of the Carolina chocolate drops there's so much history in this music yeah is not the good stuff and then some of them had stuff is the banjos rolling the minstrel era from the mid eighteen hundreds through the early twentieth century all right let's face it the whole American entertainment industry was founded on the minstrel show for better or for worse that's a good starting place for understanding a lot of things that happened since then field says white minstrel entertainers coopted the banjo donned blackface and created caricatures of slaves and their music that entered for decades on the site no musicologists Gregory Adams elaborates you can't talk about the history of the band if you can't talk about racism slavery misogyny appropriation exploitation all of the things that run counter to what we love about the danger but the instrument was also with tool for liberation as scholar rex Ellis of the national museum of African American history and culture points out in the banjo project he reflects on the life of Gus cannon who was born on a Mississippi plantation and went on to write a song in the nineteen twenties that would become a pop hit nearly half a century later so when the band show not only becomes something that he can express himself with it also becomes something and the dancer was also a ticket to a more independent life for child performer Lotta Crabtree says the banjo projects mark fields she was known for never having married wearing trousers on stage smoking cigarettes and playing the banjo and she became a nineteenth century superstar much to the surprise of project manager Sean Clark he's been working with fields for more than a decade the first time I saw a woman who is playing the banjo the first I saw it black banjo player that was a challenge to the stereotypes that I have assisted with the instrument of course the banjo project include such bluegrass stars as role Scruggs and Ralph Stanley who mark

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