The Digital Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Digital Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection is a project led by Northwestern
University Libraries (NUL) to digitize, describe, and provide free online access to a rich
trove of over 36,000 photographs, documents, posters, audio recordings, film footage
and ephemera from the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, 1958-1970, for public and
scholarly exploration, examination, and experimentation.

Currently housed in the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special
Collections at Northwestern University Libraries, the collection represents the active
history and continuing legacy of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, an annual event that
included performances and workshops from a diverse range of American musicians
and folk music scholars and ethnographers. An important yet largely undocumented
part of the national folk revival circuit, the Berkeley Folk Music Festival was quite
different from the better-known folk music revival on the East Coast during the 1950s
and 60s. While the latter sparked divisive, polemical battles about heritage and artistic
innovation; at Berkeley, participants hybridized past and present in search of a
balance between old and new ways of living.

A robust and exhaustive resource curated by the festival's founder and director,
Barry Olivier, the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection provides insight into the 60s
folk music revival, high arts and vernacular culture, music festival operations and
culture, workshop pedagogy and activism. Beyond that, the digitization, description
and publication of this collection opens up possibilities of exploring a wide range of
humanities themes, including but not limited to: race, class and gender in 1960s
America; tradition and disruptive technology; performance and archiving of cultural
heritage; modernity, commerce and community; bohemianism; higher education
history; and Cold War history and culture.

NUL's strategic collection development commitment to 1960s special and
archival collections, and it's commitment to publishing and preserving digital access to
collections of distinction, make the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Collection a prime
candidate for this project. Additionally, since 2011, NUL has collaborated with Michael
Kramer, Visiting Assistant Professor of History and American Studies, on an innovative
digital humanities undergraduate seminar, Digitizing Folk Music History , in which
students participate in the digitization and curation of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival
Collection, as well as create digital projects, from experimental new media forms and
interactive timelines to multimedia narratives and award-winning podcasts.

We seek funding to digitize and describe the entirety of the Berkeley Folk Music
Festival Collection. While grant-funded project work will focus on digitization and
description, the ultimate goal NUL is dedicated to is to provide open online access to
the collection for public and scholarly use and reuse. We will accomplish this by
publishing and preserving the digitized collection in our library’s digital repository, as
well as through a digital humanities project involving Northwestern faculty and
undergraduate students culminating in the creation of a curated online exhibit.
Effective start/end date5/1/174/30/20


  • National Endowment for the Humanities (PW-253873-17)


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