Andy Brooks’ musical journey is inspired by multiple traditions, yielding a collection of hundreds of tunes that he knows and plays by heart. He fondly remembers holding his great uncle Sammy Lee Stephens’ banjo at the home of his great grandmother, on the Alice Mill Hill in Easley. Early on, Stephens taught him tunes like “Under the Double Eagle,” from the textile mill brass band tradition. Brooks discovered the music of Pete and Mike Seeger, and by 17 was fascinated by the flashy performances of bluegrass pioneers Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. Brooks’ love of the fiddle led him far and wide, seeking out albums, festivals and fiddlers to expand his repertoire and learn a variety of styles.
Brooks’ dedication and talent has earned him recognition, including winning the 2016 South Carolina State Fiddle Championship at Hagood Mill in Pickens, where he also placed second in banjo. He also accompanied fellow musician John Thomas Fowler at the SC State House when Fowler received the 2013 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award and played with The Carolina Relics at the Carolina Music Museum at the 2018 Heritage Green Music Festival in Greenville. Andy received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2019.
An avid educator, Brooks has taught in the Young Appalachian Musicians After School Program and the Oconee Heritage Center in Walhalla. When he plays for dances, he encourages students to join him onstage, and is always eager to talk about their musical ambitions. Brooks and his students often play at nursing homes, churches, and charity events. Passionate about sharing his knowledge of the history, songs, and spirit of old-time music, Brooks is keeping the tradition alive.
Join McKissick tonight (12/4) at 7pm EST for our Meet the Artist program with Andy Brooks. Due to popular demand we’ve made this program available on our Facebook Page and on our Youtube channel, without the need to register for the original Zoom program. Andy’s Quarantunes Program with The Midtown Ramblers can be found on our Facebook page. Tune in and experience the magic of some of South Carolina’s musical traditions with your favorite university museum.
November’s blog entry is by Jessie Peragine, Natural History Curatorial Assistant at The Charleston Museum
Historic Southern Naturalist Daniel Strobel Martin (1842-1925) was briefly mentioned in the August entry, Grappling with Graptolites, by Matt Gibson, The Charleston Museum’s Natural History Curator. This is our second collection for this project that I am now working on, and has switched my brain from plants to rocks and minerals.
While I love learning about rocks and minerals as much as the next geo-enthusiast or geologist, I have also learned a couple of relatable facts about Dr. Martin himself. Ok, I may be stretching the relatability part, but it was interesting to me and maybe it will amuse you too. #1: We share the same last name- my maiden name is Martin. #2: Dr. Martin was a native New Yorker who moved to S.C. later in life, as am I and had also done. Fun fact #3: Before his move to the south, Martin was the Professor of Geology at the Rutgers Female College, Cooper Union, the New York Academy of Sciences, the Brooklyn Institute, and the Presbyterian College for Women at Columbia, S.C.; I wasn’t a professor, but I did attend four different colleges. #4: In 1906, he became the Curator of Geology and Paleontology at The Charleston Museum; 6 years ago this month, I became the museum’s Natural History Curatorial Assistant. #5: Dr. Martin was quite the exceptional organizer and cataloger, and like him, I am always gain for helping improve and organize our cataloging system so future curatorial staff can easily navigate our collections.
On that note, Dr. Martin was the most responsible person for the reorganization and updating of The Charleston Museum’s geology collection. During his time at the museum, he donated many specimens from his own collection, as well as acquired hundreds more from the many friends and colleagues he made over the years. In doing so, he created a more enriched collection, and implemented a more functional and practical means of cataloging the rocks and minerals. His work provided the Museum with the original card-index catalog for the Geology Collection, which we still utilize today, along with our other card catalogs that tower behind my desk.
During the digitization of this collection, I have come across rocks and minerals may look repetitive due to the fact that many of the specimens Martin collected and acquired were of the same rock and mineral species. The most types I have come across tend to be orthoclase feldspar, gneiss, limestone, or mica. But just because some specimens share a name, as I do with this naturalist, there is always more when viewed closer, and the composition of some of his specimens really stand apart.
This sample of gray crystalline limestone looks less typical up close. Compare the unaltered to the highlighted photos; the pink highlighter reveals the microfossil brachiopods within. The tinier holes may look like coral, but are called Rafinesquina alternata, which were epifaunal invertebrates that lived on the surface of the seafloor, rather than within burrows.
How about comparing these two mineral samples of muscovite mica, a group of sheet silicate minerals, collected from Amelia, VA. Both have thin laminae, or sheets, from which they get their group name., However, a closer look shows the slight differences between their sheets. In the rectangular sample (GR3247), you can see how edges of the stacked mica sheets look a bit more fibrous. In the odd shaped sample (GR3290), there are ragged grains or gold flakes jumbled on the edges.
And lastly, here are two samples of orthoclase, both collected south of Greenville, SC. The glittery sample is a white orthoclase feldspar that has noticeable, chunky biotite mica crystals , and up close you can see some of their sheets as well as flakes of gold mica. The second orthoclase is a white feldspar within a sample of gneiss along with quartz and very tiny black biotite crystals that give the specimen a sandy appearance.
I’m sure I’ll be coming across some more interesting finds as I continue to digitize this collection.
John Thomas Fowler is a mountain-heritage storyteller, award-winning musician, and author from the foothills of upcountry South Carolina. His storytelling combines a wonderful anthology of Appalachian folk tales, fairy tales, outrageous tall tales, and contemporary yarns with traditional songs and ballads. He has been a featured teller at Stone Soup Storytelling Festival, the International Storytelling Festival Exchange Place, Madison County Florida Storytelling Festival and is the host-teller-in-residence at Hagood Mill Storytelling Festival.
In addition to the accolades enjoyed by storytelling, John is an equally accomplished musician. He is a two-time harmonica champion at the Fiddler’s Grove Old Music Festival in Union Grove N.C., and he has also received blue ribbons in the banjo competition at the prestigious Mountain Dance Folk Festival in Asheville N,C. and the Pickins Heritage Day Old-Time Music Festival. John received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2013.
Join us Friday, October 23rd at 7pm EST for an interactive Q&A session with John Thomas Fowler. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about John’s work, and submit their own questions before and during the event. Be sure to register beforehand.
For Friday, October 30th, we are excited to present a special Halloween-themed Quarantunes performance! Tune in to Facebook at 7pm for scary stories and haunting melodies from John Thomas Fowler. If you don’t have Facebook, no need to worry – recordings of live performances will be uploaded to the McKissick YouTube channel for future viewing!
As we enter into the 3rd year of the Historic Southern Naturalists Project, Josh Schutzenhofer (UofSC Digital Collections) and Linda Smith (McKissick Museum, UofSC) take a look at some of the different specimens and artifacts that have been digitized and catalogued during this one project.
The Historic Southern Naturalists project encompasses many institutions across campus and even the state. The collections are as varied as the contributors and working in the UofSC Digital Collections I am one of the first to see the project contributions as they come together. How exciting?!
We are now entering our final year of this multi-year project and I can tell you…I have seen some pretty interesting items and so, I thought I would share a few of the varied objects I have come across over the last two years…
Where do we start on this journey? Let’s look at the science first…plants, shells, minerals…there are some specimens that are outrageously beautiful and some that are dull and honestly ugly. (shhhh! We won’t identify the ugly ones!)
Take a look at these plant specimens:
Check out this beauty of a mineral:
And the shells…
How about an early preview of a meteorite which hasn’t been uploaded yet?
While sharing the scientific images and data associated with them are extremely interesting and important work, connecting these objects with correspondence, manuscripts, post cards, etc…is also important.
Correspondence like this one:
“My dear sir
I have not been unmindful of you since I came up to Aiken, & have several times been on the point of writing, but my time has been almost wholy engulfed in preparing my 3rd Fasc[icle].
With respect to the Phaenograms in your list of desiderata, I fear I can do but little towards supplying your wants. I have not collected, but very sparingly for several years, in this department _ and a large majority of those you indicate, I know I have not. Neither of the Kalmias, nor Saxifraga erosa, mentioned in your last, have I got. Some of the ferns I have in my herbarium, but no duplicates. The Listeras and Cranichis, I have collected, but of this last I furnished you whilst in St. Johns.
My duplicates are all packed away in a box, which it would take me several days to over-haul and examine. and if the search for them would be rewarded with success, I would cheerfully undertake the task to oblige you, but knowing there are not more than two or three things which could be found_ I must postpone it until you call for them in propria persona – I wish I had a stronger inducement to offer.
I might do something for you among the Crypts. if I knew your wants in their orders.”
Manuscripts like this one:
Finally, historically speaking, documenting the objects associated with the naturalists gives another perspective to these historical naturalists.
Like Thomas Cooper’s watch fob given to him by Thomas Jefferson or these scientific slides.
Above: Four glass slides stored in a specially designed plastic storage container.
Below: A slide of wood lily (Lilium philadelphicum) during cell division by meiosis in the archesporial stage. Prepared by A. C. Moore when he was at the University of Chicago (as evidenced by the labels on the slides). This slide documents the first known reference to the term ‘meiosis’ in history!!
Wow! Such a varied assortment of institutions, objects, and information is collected in this one project. But stay tuned…we have one more year of exciting images to share!
Have you heard? Our Quarantunes artist for September is none other than Gregg “Buffalo” Barfield. Barfield is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, and storyteller from Greenville, South Carolina. Performing professionally since 1994, He has written songs in several genres including traditional country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and children’s music. First starting at the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach, Gregg and his wife Dena, have traveled throughout the Southern States, the Adirondacks, Upstate New York, and New England presenting concerts, workshops, outreach programs, and many more.
Gregg is equally dedicated to education on the continuation of tradition, serving as a teaching artist for the South Carolina Arts Commission. With a focus on audience participation, he has presented interactive concerts featuring old-time Appalachian instruments like the washboard, spoons, kazoo, jug, and the washtub bass while teaching the history and background of these instruments at performances and demonstrations.
Gregg and Dena’s concerts and workshops have been featured as part of the prestigious Smithsonian Institutes “New Harmonies Tour” in South Carolina, as well as recording “washboard, kazoo, spoons, and sang vocals” on the original music composed for Stan Woodward’s Southern Folk Life documentary series on South Carolina’s PBS television.
Join us Friday, September 18th at 7pm for an interactive Q&A session with Gregg “Buffalo” Barfield. Learn more about Gregg’s work and the history of instruments and traditional music, and ask your own questions during this event. Our “Meet the Artist’ events are free but registration is required. Then fast forward to Friday, September 25th for Gregg’s for the Facebook Live performance at 7pm. Recordings of these performances will be uploaded to the McKissick YouTube page for future viewings.
This month’s HSN update is glimpse into the process of digitization during a pandemic by one of favorite team members: Nate Price.
Under normal circumstances, this blog would be about my experience physically working in McKissick Museum under the grant program, specifically: the time spent with coworkers, figuring out how to open surprisingly heavy doors, looking at cool and/or dusty shells, etc. However, at this point, I have spent the vast majority of my employment working from home due to the minor inconvenience known as COVID-19. So, I find it more appropriate to discuss how I have personally engaged with the work I’ve done while being employed at McKissick.
Now, I don’t think I’m alone in my preference being to work in person rather than from my bedroom, but man, staying employed in this time of crisis is incredible. My employers were able to find effective and creative means of transferring most of the in-person work from the museum to online or to individual, hands-on assignments. Most of what I have done was remote work, be it editing photos, working in our database Past Perfect (PP), or even more recently, writing for the blog! The editing of photos and working in PP (Past Perfect) often coincided because once the photos were touched up with white balance correction, speck removal, and cropping they would be ready for upload into PP. That is…if all the metadata for the PP entry was ready, which I took part in, but was mostly handled by my coworkers.
My hands-on assignments were much more diverse in content. One day I could be learning how to use our Nikon camera for taking the highest quality possible images that would then be ready for editing. The next, I could be directly handling the snail and clam shells for descriptions or filling out datasheets. The datasheets required as much information on the shell that I could provide, including, but not limited to: precise measurements of length/width/and occasionally depth, common and scientific names, kingdom/phylum/class/order, and transcriptions of the labels that often came with the shells. Transcribing the labels has actually become one of my favorite things to work on because I turned into a sort of puzzle that needed to be solved rather than cursing our ancestors for not knowing what legibility is. Aside from transcription, the labels also needed to be identified either as a note from W.G. Mazyck (the man who identified much of our collection of shells) or from a different source. Once transcribed and identified, I would scan the labels into our grant image files for processing and upload them into PP along with the object images.
This all might sound boring or mundane, but I am genuinely enjoying my time working for McKissick Museum, despite this pandemic that seems as though it will never end. Not only has it granted me the blessing of a kind of schedule and stability, but working here has shown me things that I now find interesting that I would have never considered before. I feel the best example of this would be writing the shell/object descriptions, my current favorite task to do at the museum. At first glance, it could appear to be tedium at its height; simply picking up a shell, looking at it, and then writing down what you see. I feel as though that is a gross oversimplification of what I actually get out of describing the shells. I am always so interested in whatever it is I’m looking at when describing the shells. The vast array of colors, patterns, shapes, sizes, age, and textures of the shells constantly keep me engaged with my work and keep me guessing for where the species originate and what environments it could live in.
The time that I’ll be able to return to work in the museum is quickly approaching, which I am incredibly excited for. I suppose what I ultimately want to say with this blog is that I enjoy my job, pandemic or not. The opportunity to work at McKissick Museum has been a fantastic one and I cannot wait to move forward with the grant (although if I’m remembering correctly we’ll be working on preserved insects pretty soon so let’s see how well I fair with those).
McKissick’s popular virtual concert series Quarantunes returns! Due to popular demand, we are re-inventing our weekly summer program as a monthly performance series on the last Friday of each month this fall. These virtual performances will begin at 7pm EST on Facebook Live and be uploaded to Youtube at a later date. Each month will also feature a “Meet the Artist” Program, the week prior, for people interested in getting to know each of our artists in an intimate online Q&A. Registration for the “Meet the Artist” programs is required.
For August, we’re very excited to bring back the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of SC, who were originally scheduled as part of Quarantunes in June. The Kusso have traditionally lived in the same area they occupy today, near the Edisto River in South Carolina before being forced out in the 1670s due to white settlement. However, from the 1960s onwards, political advocacy lead to state recognition in 2008. The Kusso have worked diligently to safeguard their drumming and dancing traditions.
During this month’s Quarantunes, performers from the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe will give a brief history of their tribe and an informational session on the drum. Performers will play the drum and introduce different styles of dancing, with an opportunity for a Q&A session after the performance.
We’re so excited to be able to bring these performers to the digital stage and experience South Carolina’s indigenous drumming traditions. Pull up a chair and grab some snacks and we’ll see you tonight for our first Quarantunes performance of the fall semester.
A Note from the Project Manager: A big Thank You for our August blog brought to you by Matthew Gibson, Curator of Natural History at The Charleston Museum. Matthew explains the meaning of graptolites and their connection to The Charleston Museum and the Historic Southern Naturalist project via Dr. Daniel S. Martin. Daniel Strobel Martin was a Historic Southern Naturalist that was hired in 1902 to inventory the natural history collections at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) and subsequently appointed the honorary curator of minerals, rocks, and invertebrate fossils at The Charleston Museum. Our Historic Southern Naturalist IMLS grant will allow the materials that Dr. Martin collected (like these graptolites) to be digitized and made available online.
Graptolite comes from the combination of the Greek “graptos” and “lithos” meaning “writing” and “rock”. This is a perfect description for these fossils which look like drawings on the surface of sedimentary rocks. This unique appearance is a result of their preservation. Graptolites are preserved as a carbon film and can be reflective in certain light, just like graphite on paper. Despite their appearance possibly looking plant-like, these organisms were actually invertebrate animals. Some lived in large colonies containing thousands of individual organisms, referred to as zooids. Others were planktonic zooids that would be carried by ocean currents. Graptolites have a long fossil history, first showing up during the Cambrian period approximately 520 million years ago before going extinct approximately 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.
These fossil organisms are often used as index fossils to date particular rocks and sediment layers. They evolved quickly, geologically speaking, and assumed many different recognizable shapes. Certain varieties only existed on Earth for a few hundred thousand years, which is not long in the span of the entirety of geologic time. Once the age ranges were uncovered for various graptolite species by chemically dating the rocks containing them, geologists are now able to use the presence of those particular graptolites in similar rocks to easily pinpoint the age of geologic layers at a glance.
One particular geologic layer containing graptolites was sampled by Dr. Daniel Strobel Martin circa 1907 in Rensselaer county, New York. The shale bed, referred to as the Utica Shale, is upper Ordovician in age (~453 – 444 million years old). This shale bed underlies much of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia as well as extending into Canada. Rich in organic material, it is a major source of oil and natural gas. Dr. Martin collected a sample of the Utica Shale containing graptolite fossils which is now housed in the Geology Collection of The Charleston Museum.
In March of 2019, McKissick’s Historic Southern Naturalists’ project leaders began to question the provenance of the “Mazyck” shell collection. The collection, consisting of 571 lots of shells, was recorded as a donation, given by William Gaillard Mazyck. Mazyck, as you know, if you follow our project, was a renowned amateur malacologist (a scientist who studies mollusks) from South Carolina. Letters were uncovered from previous research that indicated that while Mazyck worked to inventory, identify, and label the collection in 1906, the collection belonged to Dr. Lewis Reeve Gibbes.
While our HSN team believed that Gibbes was the original owner of the entire shell collection, now they had to prove it. To prove it, we would need additional supporting evidence and primary sources, if possible. And so, the provenance mystery continued.
One of our newest HSN team members, Heather Cain, was assigned the task of solving this mystery. So off to the South Caroliniana Library (SCL) she went for numerous hours of research. The South Caroliniana Library is a special collections research library that houses thousands of archives relevant to the history of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina. With the help of the SCL staff, Heather was able to track down information regarding the acquisition of the shell collection in question and how it ended up here at the University of South Carolina.
After a few weeks of searching through mountains of sources, receipts, and transcripts, Heather found some new evidence from a surprising source, the Board of Trustees. According to source materials found in SCL, the daughters of Lewis R. Gibbes from Charleston S.C. had offered South Carolina College (UofSC’s Predecessor) their father’s rare collection of marine specimens for $180, on June 12, 1900. The Report of the Executive Committee of S.C. College for the Board of Trustees meetings accounted that the offer was accepted due, in part, to a recommendation by Dr. L. C. Glenn, head of the Department of Biology, Geology, and Mineralogy. Dr. Glenn is said to have considered “the collection an unusually fine one, worth far more than the amount asked.”
Later, on July 23rd, 1900, one of Gibbes’ daughters, Maria H. Gibbes, sent an invoice to the College for the purchase of the “marine relics” and payment of freight costs, along with a case of minerals. We can only assume that the case of minerals was a bonus for the school, as there is no known correspondence of the daughters agreeing to this addition. They likely donated the minerals to clear space and further honor their father’s legacy. On July 30th, 1900, the shells and minerals were sent from Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina via the Southern Railway Company.
Now, the letters between A. C. Moore and W. G. Mazyck previously found early in the HSN project, make sense. The shell collection belonged to Lewis Reeve Gibbes, was purchased by South Carolina College from his daughters, and his cousin, William G. Mazyck was hired by A. C. Moore to inventory and identify the shells in preparation for their exhibition at the College.
Thanks to Heather’s detailed research and the staff assistance from the South Caroliniana Library, FINALLY, this provenance mystery has been solved!
Since April, Quarantunes has showcased some of the best traditional musicians across the Palmetto State. As we come to a close this June, we’re going big. From Thursday, June 25th to Sunday, June 28th, a new performance will be livestreamed from McKissick Museum’s Facebook page every evening at 7pm! Featuring Gambian drumming, Guyanese steelpan, Powwow drumming, and South Carolina jazz traditions, the artists featured reflect the diverse tapestry of musical traditions in the state. Learn more about each artist below:
Thursday, June 25 – Sol Sabor & The Js Family, Gambian Drumming
Sulay “Sol” Janha is a native of Serekunda, The Gambia. Sol has inherited the life of a master musician, continuing in the footsteps of both his father Bai Janha, a well-known guitarist, and Sira Nying-Janha, the only female drummer in Gambia. Starting on the Wollof (Sabar) Drum, his mastery of instruments has expanded to include guitar and keyboard. Along with his father and other family members that comprise the Janha-Kunda Family, Sol has traveled to America to share his West African musical culture through teachings and performances, sharing rhythm, peace, and blessed vibes that run through their blood. This group is officially registered with the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) as a fully operational performance group, and have been acknowledged as “viable, artistic, and cultural ambassadors of The Gambia” (2003).
Friday, June 26 – Seitu Solomon, Guyanese Steelpan
Seitu Solomon was born into a musical family. Born in New York City, Seitu grew up around the sounds of steelpan through his father – from the South American country of Guyana – and mother, who is from Saint Lucia. It was unsurprising, then, that Seitu took a similar interest in the instrument, forming the family band Steel Impressions with his parents, as well as his older brother and younger sisters. Since starting on steelpan, Seitu has expanded his musical knowledge to include a multitude of instruments, including piano, guitar, bass, soprano sax, vocals, along with tenor steelpan. Since moving with his brother to Charleston in 2014, Seitu Solomon has become a growing presence in the city, performing regularly at beach venues where the sounds of steelpan perfectly match the tropical climate.
Saturday, June 27 – Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe of South Carolina, Powwow Drumming & Dance
The Kusso have traditionally lived in the same area they occupy today, near the Edisto River in South Carolina before being forced out in the 1670s due to white settlement. However, from the 1960s onwards, political advocacy lead to state recognition in 2008.
During Quarantunes, performers from the Edisto Natchez-Kusso Tribe will give a brief history of their tribe and an informational session on the drum. Performers will play the drum and introduce different styles of dancing, with an opportunity for a Q&A session at the conclusion of the performance.
Sunday, June 28 – Charlton Singleton, South Carolina Jazz Traditions
A native of Awendaw, SC, Charlton Singleton began his musical studies at the age of three on the piano. He would then go on to study the organ, violin, cello, and the trumpet throughout elementary, middle and high school. In 1994, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from South Carolina State University. As a performer, Charlton leads his own ensembles that vary in size and style. He has performed in France, Great Britain, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, The Netherlands, as well as many great cities throughout the United States. He is a founding member of a new ensemble called Ranky Tanky. The group is a quintet that interprets the sounds of Gullah from the Southeast Coast of the United States. In addition to performing, he is in demand as a speaker, clinician, composer, and arranger.
Like/Follow McKissick’s Facebook page to stay up to date with all Quarantunes performances. These performances will be posted on McKissick’s Facebook Page and in the discussion tab of the each event page. For those unable to attend the event, a recorded version of the performance will be uploaded to McKissick Museum’s YouTube channel. Support for Quarantunes has been provided by the South Carolina Arts Commission.
Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to support the McKissick Museum. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come.