Effort to preserve Adirondack folk songs looks online to raise funds

PLATTSBURGH – Mountain Lake PBS and Traditional Arts in Upstate New York have partnered together to preserve and reinvigorate a collection of traditional Adirondack folk songs collected by Marjorie Lansing Porter, and they’re turning to you, and the internet, to help fund the project.

The project, “Songs to Keep”, was inspired by the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore. Porter (1891-1973) dedicated her life to preserving the folk songs of the Adirondacks. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, Porter traveled through New York State interviewing and recording traditional musicians and singers, creating a comprehensive collection of songs, transcripts and other writings currently housed at SUNY Plattsburgh.

For many years this unique time capsule has been inaccessible to the broad public. Now for the first time, this documentary will illuminate and revitalize the Porter Collection through contemporary interviews with folk musicians such as the legendary Pete Seeger, a personal friend of Porter, and Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. The film also features a series of re-recordings from the Porter Collection by modern musicians including Kevin and Michael Bacon of the Bacon Brothers, Lee Knight, David Ruch, Dan Berggren, Alex Smith and many others.

Like folksong collectors Alan Lomax and Anne and Frank Warner, Porter captured many songs just before the last living tradition bearers died. The Porter Collection consists of more than 300 traditional ballads, songs from lumber camps and iron mines, Irish and French-Canadian songs, and Iroquois chants. The collection also includes dozens of oral histories and Porter’s collected writings.

Mountain Lake PBS, TAUNY, SUNY Plattsburgh and the Adirondack History Center Museum have partnered on this multi-platform project to increase awareness of and access to the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore. Recently, the Special Collections Library at State University of New York digitized the collection, and Lee Knight, a close friend of Porter, has transcribed all the lyrics and completed substantial research on their origins and context. This project seeks to create new publications and events to bring attention and further increase access to this important cultural asset.

Executive Director Jill Breit said “TAUNY has been interested in bringing the Porter folk song collection to light for a while, and we are thrilled that Mountain Lake PBS and other regional partners have joined forces with us to make this a reality.”

More than just a film

This project’s components include:

-An album of new recordings from the Porter Collection interpreted by well-known regional and national musicians.

-A traveling exhibit about Porter and her work, including new original research with descendants of Porter and the singers she recorded.

-A manuscript of all the folksongs of the Porter Collection.

-Publication of a 40-page songbook from the Porter Collection.

-A concert tour hitting six locations throughout the Adirondack Park with local musicians (lineup and set lists to be determined).

Funds are being raised through, a site where individuals are given the opportunity to invest in projects that match their interests. This film, “Songs to Keep,” has a 34 day fundraising window, from start to finish, and if the $15,000 budget is not raised by August 4th, all the pledges will be cancelled.

“Kickstarter is a unique way to spread the word about a project to people that we wouldn’t typically reach,” said Dan Swinton, Director of Production and Content at Mountain Lake PBS. “I know that Marjorie Lansing Porter’s story is one that will resonate with many people.”

For more information, or to support this project, visit

Find the project on Kickstarter at