SXSW 2020

The Banjo Project: A Digital Museum


What makes banjo the quintessential American instrument? Brought to the New World by enslaved Africans, the banjo is the product of 3 centuries of cultural exchanges, shaping many musical forms: the minstrel show, ragtime, early jazz, blues, oldtime, bluegrass, folk revival, country and world. Its rich and contested history highlights intersectional conflicts — race, gender, class, region, and folk vs. pop — still at the heart of American society today. The Banjo Project brings the museum experience to the digital world and puts music in its cultural context. It is the final media platform in The Banjo Project’s transmedia documentary, including the PBS national broadcast (Give Me the Banjo, narrated by Steve Martin), DVD/streaming and the live stage/multimedia show with Tony Trischka.

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  1. The banjo is at the root of roots music; its long and contested history makes it America’s quintessential (and intersectional) instrument.
  2. Exploring popular and marginalized music in its contexts reveals the most redemptive as well as the most corrosive aspects of American society.
  3. The digital museum expands the audience for the digital humanities, applying new media technology to traditional documentary and museum experiences.



Marc Fields, Assoc. Professor, Producer/Curator For The Banjo Project, Emerson College

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Experiential Storytelling
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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