30 Years of Tennessee Folklife

In this outtake from promotional photos for the Cumberland Music Tour, Virgil Anderson cuts up for his tourmates at the Sharps Place grocery.  Others are (L to R) Johnny Ray Hicks, Hershel Anderson, Ralph Troxell, Clyde Troxell, Clyde Davenport, and Willard Anderson.  Photo by Robert Cogswell, 1987.

At his retirement from the Tennessee Arts Commission in December 2014, Dr. Robert “Roby” Cogswell left a legacy of 22,000 photographs documenting Tennessee’s traditional arts and culture. The work spans his thirty years as director of the Folklife Program. This exhibit is a sampling of these images.

The total collection of images have been donated to the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA), including 4,000 photographs that have been digitized for database access by archivist Christina Skinker. TSLA will preserve the collection and in time make its contents accessible to researchers and the public.

While photos in the collection have found many different uses in projects and publications, this is only the second exhibit mounted exclusively from images in the Folklife Program collection. Exhibited in 1994, “Portraits of Tradition” highlighted black-and-white work from the first ten years of the program. Like the previous show, this exhibit depicts people across the state who keep Tennessee traditions alive and who are at the heart of the cultural wealth that the Folklife Program documents and celebrates.

View “30 Years of Tennessee Folklife”