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Field recordings

Identifier: HHFBC

Scope and Contents

Field recordings include recordings made by Helen Hartness Flanders and George Brown in 1930, by Flanders with occasional help from Phillips Barry between 1931 and 1937, by Flanders and Alan Lomax in 1939, and by Flanders and Marguerite Olney between 1940 and 1958. Early recordings were made on wax cylinders. Flanders began using aluminum and glass-based discs for her field work in 1939, and later used shellac and acetate discs.

Several numbering systems were used at various times throughout the collection's history, most of which appear to pertain to genre. Discs #1-1214 comprise the largest portion of the field recordings and include a variety of songs, as well as interviews and stories. Discs #3684-3761 make up the Library of Congress discs made with Alan Lomax. Discs #VA1-VA60 contain songs recorded in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine between 1940 and 1947. Discs #4001-4061 contain fiddle and dance music from all the New England states. Of these discs, #4001-4016 were made with with Alan Lomax. Discs #10001-10009 are recordings of fife music made in Massachusetts.
In addition to these numbered discs, there are a number of unnumbered discs. There are gaps in the disc numbering as well as broken and missing discs.
Between 1946 and 1958, reel-to-reel tapes of songs and instrumental performances were made in all of the New England states. Tapes in the collection are numbered 1-78, although a large number of these tapes are missing. In addition, there are 22 unnumbered tapes. The collection also contains a number of blank tapes with content notes. Some of the song titles written on these boxes are not represented in the collection, indicating that these tapes may have been erased.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1960


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research without restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

The disc recordings date from 1939 to 1949, and some of Flanders' earliest recordings on disc were made with Alan Lomax in November, 1939, when they collected over 150 songs, stories, and fiddle tunes. It was through her contact with Alan Lomax and through the influence of the curator of the collection from 1941 to 1960, Marguerite Olney, that the scope of the field recordings expanded beyond the traditional Child ballads and selected British and American broadside ballads to also include recordings of religious songs, children's songs, 19th century American popular songs, dance tunes, and folk tales.

It is clear that the field recordings influenced the acquisition of the printed materials in the collection. Flanders attempted to provide a body of supporting materials to complement the field recordings, at first for her own development as a collector, and later for scholarly research, as the collection grew. Very few field notes from the collection process have been preserved.


47 Boxes

Language of Materials


See index for field recordings on cylinder.

See index for field recordings on cassette.

index for field recordings on CD.

Repository Details

Part of the Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives Repository

Middlebury College
Davis Family Library
110 Storrs Avenue
Middlebury Vermont 05753 United States