By Michele Farrell
Senior Library Program Office, IMLS
On a recent site visit to the Florida Department of Libraries I met with Jody Norman, Director of the Florida Memory Program at the State Archives. Her staff includes Katrina Harkness, Mark Nicolou, Josh Goodman, Adam Watson, and Derek Long. They really impressed me with their enthusiasm and team effort in producing Florida Memory Radio. I wasn’t the only one who was impressed, because this month, the Society of American Archivists awarded the Archival Innovator Award to Jody and her staff for their work on a 24-hour streaming Internet radio station featuring bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, Latin, and world music.
The goal of this IMLS-funded project is to provide access to music that many people would not know exists. Normally music is cataloged by performance rather than by song. As a result, a single recording might have up to 20 songs. Many of the recordings are from the Florida Folk Festival performances and field recordings. The Florida Folklife Festival began in 1953 and is the longest running folk festival in the U.S.
This cataloging approach might work for archivists, but not the public. With the public in mind, the staff created “shows” that include each genre of music held by the archive. The shows include messages from the Florida Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, and a “this day in Florida history” segment. Where else could you hear the following recordings: “Apple Farm Blues” by Moses Williams, “Cruel Mother” by Jeanie Fitchen, “Back in the Saddle Again” by Jim Bob Tinsley, “Vietnamese Folk Song” by Pham Duy, “The Water is Wide” by the Beers Family, Ida Goodson performing “Careless Love,” James Kelly playing, “Wellington’s Reel,” and “In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down” by Alex McBride.
I listened to the recordings and was fascinated by Ida Goodson’s performance. Thanks to the archivist who expanded the folklife subjects and folklife people pages, I could find more information about the musicians. When I went on the website I found information about her life, other recordings, and learned that she was in a movie about women who played the blues - something I would never have learned from listening to her music through another platform.
Like a good old recording, the Florida Memory Program, has been around for a long time now. During its 12-year existence the staff has made photographs, video, exhibits, and online classroom materials available. There are plenty of materials for genealogists, teachers, and music lovers. Some of items that have been recently added are the voter registration rolls from 1867-68, the Fernandina Death and Burial Records from 1896-1916, and by the end of August, automobile registrations from 1905-1917. I strongly recommend that you visit the website and discover some great music!