The collection keeps growing!

At this writing, the collection contains 868 items. Among our recent entries:

  • Two clips of Kentucky square dance filmed by George Pickow in 1963, one showing a big set and one a four-couple square
  • More than two dozen programs of dance festivals from the 1940s through the 1960s; these contain lists of dances, information about callers, and in some cases actual calls of the dances.
  • A photograph showing the end of the Grand March, with more than 200 squares of modern square dancers gathered for the 1964 Golden State convention
  • A detailed, scholarly article looking in depth at Henry Ford‘s interest in traditional American dances, including squares. The author goes to great length to counter some commonly-held views about Ford.
  •  An exhibit looking at women callers in the modern square dance movement, including audio and video clips.
  • Articles about traditional squares in Maryland, western Pennsylvania, coastal North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arizona
  • A collection of square-dance themed advertisements from the 1940s and 1950s, illustrating the prominent position of this dance form in American popular culture.

Our collection now contains nearly 150 singing squares, half of them moving images and the other half audio files. And speaking of audio, we have added eight audio files of the great New England caller Ted Sannella. Ted never recorded commercially, so these live recordings are a great way of hearing New England style calling done by a master.

Lots more to come!

Off to a great start!

We launched our website in September of 2012. We currently have about 800 items online: 419 moving images, 174 audio files, and numerous text documents, photographs, links to other websites, and so on. The website has been accessed by more than 6,000 unique visitors; most of them come from the United States, followed in order by Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Canada, and Germany. One indicator of the value of the site can be found in a simple Google search for square dance history. Of the 95 million suggested items, our site is high on the list, second only to Dosado.com, and this after only four months.

 

Now we can turn to obtaining additional valuable resources. This month, we begin the progress of contracting for a formal copyright search of useful films we have identified. This must be completed by authorized researchers before institutions such as the Library of Congress and the National Archives will create digital copies for us of materials in their collections.

 

We have regional styles that are not yet well documented on the SDHP site; for example, we need footage from Cape Breton’s rich dance tradition, from the upper Midwest, and more from Quebec. We also want to strengthen our collection of moving images showing cotillions and quadrilles, those important historical antecedents to today’s squares.If readers know of good sources for any of these subjects, please let us know.



New items

The Square Dance History Project is off to a good start. To date, the site has drawn more than 4,000 unique visitors.

In these first two weeks of November, we’ve added two dozen new items. Among them:

• Collector Stig Malmo has made available some wonderful older recordings, including material from Cal Golden, Charley Thomas, Red Warrick, and more. Interested in a different sound? Check out Bill Castner calling “Oh By Jingo” here.

• Les Gotcher is widely known as a key player in introducing hash calls. At this callers’ workshop, recorded in 1962, you can hear his excitement as he introduces a hey for four, a figure he picked up from English country dance!

• We’re thrilled to present moving images from the early 1950s of caller Mildred Buhler and her demonstration team from Redwood City, California. Thanks to Fred Buhler and to Paul Moore for making this material available. Over the next few months, we hope to add an additional film, audio, and still photographs about this caller who played a key role in promoting American square dance in England.

• From 1955, we have uploaded the program of the Florida Folk and Square Dance Convention. This programs offers a detailed look at a time when dancers enjoyed a wide variety of styles. Among the dance leaders featured at the event were Don and Marie Armstrong, Jimmy Clossin, Michael and Mary Ann Herman, Olga Kubitsky, Frank Kaltman and Charley Thomas.

• Don Armstrong created the singing square Trail of the Lonesome Pine by setting a dance from Ralph Page to a popular tune. The site now contains a live recording of Don and Marie Armstrong singing those calls, along with additional material from each of them, recorded in 1960.

Square Dance History Project launches!

Welcome! This site is a work in progress, a project that was first conceived in 2009, nearly three years before this public launch. We have additional material ready to be added but wanted to invite a broad audience to view what we have currently assembled. With sufficient funding to pay for rights and for digitization, there are extraordinary examples of commercial and other archival material that we plan to add. We will post occasional Blog entries to let you know what new materials are in the collection; sign up for an RSS feed to be notified of such posts.

You might enjoy:

Please take our survey. One of the reasons to launch now, rather than waiting for more items, is so we can make adjustments based on information we receive from users. We’re interested in what works for you, what does not, what kind of materials are missing, and how we can improve the site to make it more informative and more useful. Of course, we also want to learn of additional resources that you can suggest.

Digital Library: Just as in a regular library, different users come here for different reasons. This collection will benefit casual browsers looking to watch dance footage, social dance historians researching dances of a particular region or era, dance callers seeking new material or interested in variations on a dance they already know, and, in general, square dance enthusiasts from many different backgrounds.

In broad terms, we include both traditional and modern square dance —traditional in its many North American regional forms, and modern in all the different CALLERLAB program levels. We also include information about the historical antecedents of today’s dances, such forms as the cotillion and the quadrille as well as related dance forms from countries such as Ireland and Scotland.

We are well aware of gaps in the collection; at the moment, for example, we have no materials documenting the rich square dance traditions of Cape Breton; similarly, we have far more information on New England dances and the southern Appalachian mountains than, say, the Great Lakes region or the northern Rockies. We will add more items as we learn of them, so please bring additional resources to our attention.

Our primary focus is moving images — we currently have 400 videos in our collection — because we feel that looking at dances is vital to understanding how they work. At the moment, some of these clips have have been selected from material already online, but we have also digitized and added many other rare examples. The site also includes audio files, photographs, interviews, websites, and other informative media.

Unlike a library, though, the classification system may not be immediately apparent. Browsing the shelves of the non-fiction section of a library will take you to nearby objects that are clearly related; on the other hand, browsing nearby items in this collection could take you from a MWSD Plus dance in Germany to traditional western squares to a photograph and information about then-Princess Elizabeth square dancing in Canada in 1951 to an excerpt from Soirée Canadienne, a television show from Quebec. Just as the card catalog or its computerized version helps at the library, so, too, the Search Engine can help you locate more specific requests.

Searching the Site: The search engine for our database is MySQL; it has its idiosyncrasies. It does not search for short words, fewer than four letters. Unlike Google or most other search engines, it does not acknowledge quotation marks; a search for “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” will return 20 items, including the Mountain Dance Trail, Cecil Sharp’s visit to Pine Mountain, Kentucky, dances with a cross-trail figure, and much more. Entering one distinctive word in the search box brings more targeted results. We are told that the new version of the software, to be released later this fall, is significantly better.

The Advanced Search function is even more precise and recommended. Using the Narrow by Specific Fields function, you can select TITLE – CONTAINS – LONESOME and you are directed to just three videos of the dance and one audio file.

One quick way to search is to use tags. If you on the BROWSE ITEMS page and then SEARCH BY TAGS, you can select “singing square” which will immediately bring up more than 100 items. If you want to watch but not just listen, go into the Advanced Search section and limit that; using Search by Type–> MOVING IMAGE brings the number to about 60 video files.

Acknowledgements:
Seven well-known callers and square dance enthusiasts have served as the primary consultants for this project. Special thanks and deep appreciation also go to Stig Malmo, a graceful dancer, skilled caller, and avid collector from Copenhagen, Denmark. Stig has been extremely generous in sharing items from his large collection of rare square dance items. Visit his website if you’d like more information about obtaining copies of his material.

John-Michael Seng-Wheeler
has been our go-to video professional; his expertise made possible the 100+ videos from Dare To Be Square 2011 at Brasstown, NC, as well as footage from DTBS 2012 at Riner, VA. Back in 2009, when this project was still in the planning phase, Doug Plummer brought equipment and his skilled eye to videotape dances and other sessions at DTBS Seattle. Arthur Hanchett at the Jones Media Center at Dartmouth College has provided vital technical assistance in digitizing older 8mm and 16mm footage.

Our skilled webmaster, herself a librarian in an earlier life, is Barb Ackemann, who continues to provide friendly and professional assistance. This website is designed with Omeka, open-source software that was created to enable libraries, archives, and enthusiasts to share their collections through digital media.

Many others have made suggestions or provided materials, videotaped on request, added identifying information to YouTube clips, uploaded videos to the SDHP collection, edited and cleaned up audio files, and numerous other tasks. We would like to thank:

  • Andy Abeles
  • Ed Austin
  • Clark Baker
  • Glenn Bannerman
  • Eric Borresen
  • Adam Boyce
  • Calvin Campbell
  • Patricia Campbell
  • Debbie and Vic Ceder
  • Pierre Chartrand
  • Lew and Enid Cocke
  • Joe Dehn
  • Burt Feintuch
  • Fred Feild
  • Nils Fredland
  • Dan Freligh
  • Suzanne Girardot
  • Roland Goodbody
  • Adina Gordon
  • Arthur Hanchett
  • Michael Ismerio
  • Kate Van Winkle Keller
  • Susan Kevra
  • Dudley Laufman
  • Walter Lenk
  • Ted Levin
  • Bob Livingston
  • Bill Martin
  • Tony Mates
  • Gordon McCann
  • Veronica McClure
  • Michael McGuire
  • Michael McKernan
  • John Ramsay
  • Jerry Reed
  • Ellis Rogers
  • Rich Sbardella
  • Dana Schimer
  • Ray Sebold
  • Stew Shacklette
  • Fred Sheldon
  • Janine Smith
  • Nancy Spero
  • Carol Téten
  • Allison Thompson
  • Lorenzo Trujillo
  • Chuck Ulmann
  • Phyllis Varga
  • Don Ward
  • Otto Warteman
  • Buddy Weaver
  • Johnny Wedge
  • Keather Weideman
  • Will Mentor

Sponsors: Initial funding for this project has been provided by four organizations: Country Dance and Song Society, CALLERLAB, The Lloyd Shaw Foundation, and The ARTS – The Alliance of Round, Traditional and Square-Dance. Additional non-financial assistance has been provided by the University of New Hampshire’s Library of Traditional Music and Dance and the Square Dance Foundation of New England. In addition, CDSS administers a separate fund for contributions from donors who wish to support this project. We thank these individuals at CDSS for their assistance: Rima Dael, Executive Director; Bob Blondin, Business Manager; Anna Mach, Bookkeeper; Pat MacPherson, Director of Education; and Nils Fredland, American Dance/Music Projects.