Living Columns & Blogs

From the Beacon: Smithsonian's roots-music exhibit headed to library

What do Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Patsy Cline, B.B. King and the Carter family have in common? Their music is featured in the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition, "New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music," that's making a stop at the Beaufort library this December. Get ready for a genuine toe-tapping good time!

That's right, you can experience all the sights and sounds of a Smithsonian museum exhibit without leaving your hometown. "New Harmonies" will be on view at the Beaufort library beginning Dec. 17 continuing through Feb. 4. As an added bonus, the Beaufort library also will offer a variety of free public programs and local exhibits designed to complement the roots-music theme, including live music performances, lectures and workshops.

With its variety of sounds and styles and its century-old traditions, American roots music acts as our nation's soundtrack. Rising out of America's story, roots music reflects essential American values such as freedom, democracy and diversity. Whether you're listening to the blues, country western, folk or gospel, American roots music reveals the story of America -- people reshaping themselves in a new and changing world.

"New Harmonies" masterfully tells America's musical story through photographs, instruments, lyrics and artist profiles with 800 square feet of interactive kiosks devoted to jazz, the blues, R&B, bluegrass, country western, zydeco, Cajun, Tejano, klezmer, folk and gospel. It also describes the African influences and the traditions of early European immigrants in North America. "New Harmonies" is a one-stop shop in exploring how America became the birthplace of such great music and gives visitors a chance to reflect on their own musical heritage and the traditions that inspire it.

As we celebrate America's musical heritage, we also need our local community to help us showcase Beaufort's musical heritage. We need to discover our town's music history: the music that was born here, what musicians live or have lived here, and in what ways music has influenced our local culture and community.

The library is seeking local musicians that we can showcase in our live musical performances as well as knowledgeable experts for our lecture series. In addition, we need music-related artifacts, such as sheet music, photographs and instruments, to display. Finally, we also need volunteer docents and event staff to help with the "New Harmonies" exhibit and public programs. If you have any information or items to contribute or you wish to volunteer with the exhibit, call 843-255-6439 or email