For those interested in multiculturalism, history, and technology, this project is for you!
Few musical instruments are more closely linked to American history than the banjo. From its origins in the 17th century Caribbean as an African American folk instrument with a West African heritage through its 19th century transformation into a centerpiece of American popular culture, the banjo is an iconic instrument whose impact is woven into the multi-cultural fabric of the American experience. As scholars, researchers, and enthusiasts continue to discover new information about the early banjo, there is no available system in which to maintain, interact with, and collectively analyze this important data. The proposed Banjo Sightings Database Project (BSD) will combine information about rare and widely dispersed primary source material (circa 1620–1870) with appropriate and innovative technological applications, resulting in a system that not only catalogs information about the early banjo, but also establishes an interactive, peer-reviewed knowledge management system. Users will be able to explore the early banjo from structural, cultural, and historical perspectives.
Level I Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant funding ($13,889, outright) was awarded to the fiscal sponsor Piedmont Folk Legacies, Inc. (PFL), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), of Eden, North Carolina to support “planning activities for the creation of a proof-of-concept knowledge management system to allow researchers to study the development and performance history of musical instruments, using the banjo as a test case.” The planning period of April-September 2009 allowed Greg Adams (Project Director and Principal Investigator) and George Wunderlich (Co-Principal Investigator) to convene a two-day meeting (held on June 4-5, 2009) with an Advisory Board to discuss the test case, entitled the Banjo Sightings Database Project (BSD). The purpose of the two-day meeting was to allow Adams and Wunderlich to draw on the Advisory Board’s knowledge and expertise to address key objectives and indicators, develop a foundation for a functional project work plan, and outline next steps. The remaining portion of the planning period was designed for Adams to conduct follow-up research, outreach, and focus the project toward Level-II funding.
This project has many hurdles to overcome, but, thanks to NEH, it has received an important empowering boost towards becoming a reality!
Greg C. Adams
 Excerpted from National Endowment for the Humanities, Awards and Offers, March 2009 (http://neh.gov/news/archive/pdf/Awards_09Mar_Pt3_NCtoWI.pdf)