Augusta receives grant to preserve rare recordings

The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College has been awarded a $1,500 matching grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council for the digital preservation of rare audio recordings. Work has already begun on the project currently housed in the Augusta Collection of Folk Culture on the second floor of Booth Library.

“These recordings captured some of the only extant performances of many notable traditional musicians from the central West Virginia area,” said Gerry Milnes, Augusta’s Folk Art coordinator. “There are many rare and outstanding performances.”

The 19 recordings were made by the late Fern Rollyson of Glenville at the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville in the mid-1950s through the 1970s.

While the materials are held in a climate-controlled room at the library, Milnes says the West Virginia Humanities Council saw the need to digitize the collection to ensure their safety and usefulness in the future, and thus save significant cultural information.

“The quarter-inch audio reel-to-reel tape used during that era is not a very permanent archival medium,” Milnes said. “Digitizing these recordings will ensure their archival quality and value going forward, as digital audio files may be reproduced with no loss of sound quality from one transfer to the next. Digital files are considered to be state-of-the-art regarding archival practices today.”

In accordance with the award agreement, the center will provide additional funding, goods or services to complete the project.

The Augusta Collection of Folk Culture is a unique and wide-ranging record of the folklife and traditions of central West Virginia and beyond. It is comprised of 21 distinct collections that include photographs, and music, and audio and video recordings of interviews and oral histories. Most of the collection was generated by the Augusta Heritage Center and its programs. It also includes donated collections from private sources, and some materials generated by D&E’s Appalachian Studies program.

A Center of Excellence for more than 40 years, the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College offers several week-long instructional programs in traditional music, dance, craft and folklore. Concerts, dances, a summer festival and other heritage arts events are also part of the Augusta experience.

For more information, please visit the college website at or call 304-637-1243.