The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Visual and Media Arts Professor Marc Fields a Mellon Fellowship to work on The Banjo Project, a digital repository of information and resources dedicated to the history of the instrument.
The fellowship will allow Fields to develop new content for The Banjo Project: Interactive Narratives from the African Diaspora to the Folk Revival, 1680-1980, viewable at banjo.emerson.edu.
In 2019, The Banjo Project received a $100,000 NEH Digital Projects for Public grant, which allowed Fields and VMA Associate Professor Shaun Clarke, the project’s production manager, to complete the beta prototype of the interactive museum.
Fields and Clarke created The Banjo Project, in part, from material left on the cutting room floor of Fields’ 2011 documentary, Give Me the Banjo.
In a 2018 interview about the project, Fields called the banjo, which had its roots in America as an instrument played primarily by enslaved Africans, but was gradually co-opted by white performers before making its way back into musical genres across cultures, “a very good vehicle for exploring the most redemptive and corrosive elements in American culture.
“I came across the banjo as something that was kind of quintessentially American. Quintessential, because it embodies both the good and the bad as far as American culture goes.”