The UT Libraries has created an online digital collection of photos and home movies of the Smokies taken in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s by a Townsend businessman. Folk songs performed by local musicians have been added to the originally silent film clips.
The William Derris Collection, composed of 334 slides and twelve film clips, is available online for free.
William Derris, owner of the Derris Motel in Townsend, Tennessee, crisscrossed the Great Smoky Mountains by automobile, recording the people and scenery in both slides and silent film. He used the images and films to entertain and inform the guests at his motel. Derris’s images document landscapes, flora, wildlife, and people in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Townsend, Tuckaleechee, Cades Cove, Wears Valley, Little Greenbrier, and Fontana.
Approximately 4,400 slides and eight reels of 8mm film shot by Derris were donated to UT Libraries. The film footage was first digitized, and then the most interesting Smokies content was excerpted to create shorter clips.
Chris Durman, librarian at UT’s George F. DeVine Music Library, selected appropriate traditional songs to enhance the film clips and recruited local musicians to record the tunes. Steve White (mandolin), Leslie Gengozian (violin) and Chris Durman (guitar, banjo, harmonica), performed the sixteen public domain folk songs that were added to the film clips. The songs are all traditional Southern Appalachian tunes that were played in the Great Smoky Mountains region, according to folk song collectors.
The William Derris Collection is the latest in a growing list of digital photograph collections created by the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, covering more than 100 years of life in the Smokies.
The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, an undertaking of the UT Libraries, provides support for researchers at all levels who study the Smokies and the surrounding communities.
Anne Bridges, co-director, Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, UT Libraries (865-974-0288, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ken Wise, co-director, Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project, UT Libraries (865-974-0288, email@example.com)
Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, firstname.lastname@example.org)