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Harry Smith papers, 1888-2010, bulk 1987-1990

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Smith (Harry) papers

Historical Note

The Harry Smith Archives was created in 1992 after Smith's death. Committed to the location, preservation and presentation of the work of artist Harry Smith, it is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization registered in the State of New York since 1998. On December 2nd, 1991, five days after Harry Smith died at the Chelsea Hotel, a group of Smith's colleagues gathered in the apartment of Raymond Foye. Attendees included Allen Ginsberg, Jonas Mekas, Joe Gross, Bill Breeze, Rani Singh, Deborah Freeman and others. The focus of the meeting was to discuss an immediate plan to collect and catalog Smith's remaining belongings and surmise about his continuing legacy.

In the years that followed, the Harry Smith Archives held annual memorials and screenings at Naropa Institute, St. Mark's Poetry Project, Anthology Film Archives, and other locations, with the goal of increasing awareness of Smith's work. The Archives also continued researching, locating, identifying and collecting Smith's art objects that had been dispersed to various private and public collections. The Archives co-produced with Smithsonian Folkways the 1997 reissue of the Anthology of American Folk Music, with expanded notes and essays and CD-ROM capability, exposing it to an entirely new audience. Originally issued by Folkways in 1952 as three volumes of two LPs each, (a total of 84 tracks), it had been commercially unavailable for many years. The Archives also produced a series of concert events between 1999 and 2001. The first concert, precipitated by Meltdown Festival guest director Nick Cave, was a salute to the influential and idiosyncratic Anthology and many of Smith's other interests. Similar concerts followed in New York at St Ann's Warehouse. This exploration continued with a two day symposium at the Getty Research Institute Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular, which featured a concert "No Depression in Heaven" at the GRI along with two five-hour concerts at UCLA's Royce Hall. The Harry Smith Project box set issued by Shout! Factory Records in 2006 is a multi-media record of those concerts. The Old Weird America, a documentary by Rani Singh produced by the Harry Smith Archives, traced the history of the Anthology from its initial compilation of 78 records to its release on Folkways Records in 1952, when it helped to inspire the urban folk revival of the 1960s. The film also considered the Anthology's continuing influence on modern music.

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