Public Programs: Digital Projects for the Public: Production Grants

Period of Performance

1/1/2019 - 4/30/2021

Funding Totals

$100,000.00 (approved)
$98,999.97 (awarded)

The Banjo Project: Stories of America's Instrument

FAIN: MN-263900-19

Emerson College (Boston, MA 02116-4624)
Marc Fields (Project Director: June 2018 to May 2022)

Production of a website on the history and legacy of banjo music.

“Music is like the front porch of a culture,” said Harry Belafonte. “It is often where people first look and see each other.” Brought to the New World by enslaved Africans, the banjo is the product of three centuries of cultural exchanges and appropriations. If the banjo is America’s front porch instrument, then The Banjo Project: Stories of America’s Instrument is our 21st century front porch. Built on a searchable archive of over 300 hours of original media, The Banjo Project is a digital museum devoted to the instrument’s rich history, combining interactive documentary, research and curated content. It will also serve as the hub for a consortium of partner institutions, with portals to showcase related content and digital collections. When the diverse styles and purveyors of banjo music are placed in their historical context, users can create a community of storytellers who will build narratives around the banjo that overcome boundaries of race, culture, class, region and gender.

Media Coverage

Marc Fields & The Banjo Project (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Tony Trischka
Publication: Banjo Newsletter
Date: 3/1/2019
Abstract: World-renowed banjo player and songwriter Tony Trischka interviews project director Marc Fields about The Banjo Project.

The Banjo’s Beauty, And Its Cultural Baggage, Is On Display In A New Digital Museum (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Andrea Shea
Publication: WBUR-FM (90.9 FM)
Date: 4/4/2019
Abstract: WBUR's arts and culture team, The ARTery, reports on the complicated story The Banjo Project digital museum tells about the banjo.

Professors’ digital museum tells the unknown story of the banjo (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Cassandre Coyer
Publication: The Berkeley Beacon
Date: 1/16/2019
Abstract: Emerson College student journalists interviewed project director Marc Fields about The Banjo Project, including a discussion of prejudices and misunderstandings, and the stereotypes many people have about the banjo.

You Can Tour This Banjo Museum Without Getting Up From Your Couch (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Andrea Shea
Publication: NPR Weekend Edition [Radio broadcast episode]
Date: 12/14/2019
Abstract: For more than 15 years, filmmaker Marc Fields has been on a quest to capture and share the story of the banjo. The Banjo Project is an online museum that covers the instrument's history and culture.

Associated Products

The Banjo Project (Database/Archive/Digital Edition)
Title: The Banjo Project
Author: L. Marc Fields
Author: Shaun Clarke
Abstract: The Banjo Project is a digital museum and archive that honors the banjo as America's quintessential instrument, and the roles the banjo has played in the lives of Americans from its African roots to present day modern artists and bands. Brought to America by enslaved Africans, the banjo is an important product of three centuries of cultural exchanges, appropriations and face-to-face interactions, traveling between the margins and the mainstream, and its history should not be forgotten.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Home and landing page for The Banjo Project
Access Model: open access