About this Collection

The digital reformatting of at-risk 16mm film and other magnetic media has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Penland School of Craft together: Democracy demands wisdom. The film, video, and audio materials contain unique documentation of the history of craft in the Appalachian region from the 1930s through the early 2000s, documenting cultural attitudes about Appalachia as well as the genesis of specific crafts and  early studio craft practitioners. They include interviews and studio demonstrations, along with regional  and local footage. Films made by Allen  Eaton in the 1930s and 1940s, with the support of the Russell Sage Foundation, offer a dated view of  Appalachian culture while documenting traditional craft in Western North Carolina and include  significant early footage of Penland. A film made by Thor Behrens captures Penland in the 1950s,  documenting the school before the cultural seachange of the 1960s. A final 16mm film was shot in 1969,  both in homage to the prior films and in fascinating contrast to them, reflecting changes at the school  and in society at large.


The videotapes  and audiotapes in the collection are mainly from the 1980s and early 2000s and they include interviews and footage of studio demonstrations, many by master craftspeople. While focusing on Penland School, we hope these materials will also be of interest to a broader audience and archive by providing insight into Appalachian folkways, American craft and art history, material and visual culture, specific artists and their methods, immersive education, and general cultural attitudes prevalent in a given period of time.