Harry Everett Smith – Avant-Garde Museologist

We benefit from musicologists who have an adept skill of collecting, recording and documenting  American musical heritage. Three of the musicologists I respect in this vein are Alan Lomax, Samuel Charters and Harry Smith.

Harry Everett Smith is primarily known as the anthologist of the multi-volume Anthology of American Folk Music for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The Anthology was comprised entirely of recordings issued between 1927 (the year electronic recording made accurate reproduction possible) and 1932, the period between the realization by the major record companies of distinct regional markets and the Depression’s stifling of folk music sales. Released in three volumes of two discs each, the 84 tracks of the anthology are recognized as having been a seminal inspiration for the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960 (the 1997 reissue by the Smithsonian was embraced with critical acclaim and produced two Grammy awards).

Smith with headphones at Ginsberg’s apartment. 437 East 12th St. NYC, Winter 1987 [Photo by Brian Graham] Courtesy the photographer

Harry Smith’s Archives reside at The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, California. There are three major content resources available to help further your understanding of Harry Everett Smith’s prolific art collections.

Internet Resources

1. Harry Smith Symposium at the Getty

2. Harry Smith Archives

Published Resource

3. The Book In Print – Harry Smith, The Avant-Garde In The American Vernacular, Edited by Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh

Constituting a first attempt to locate Smith and his diverse endeavors within the history of avant-garde art production in twentieth-century America, the essays in this volume reach across Smith’s artistic oeuvre.

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