American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 25, Number 4
December, 2005

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 AMN Article  

 Library Resources for Morris Research

Mike Heaney & Andrew Bullen

Morris Resources in England (Mr Heaney)

In England (I was tempted to write 'the United Kingdom', but to be honest there is not a lot of material that is distinctively Irish, Scottish or Welsh) the prime source of information, and the fount of all wisdom as far as Morris dancing is concerned, is the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and its helpful staff, under the direction of Malcolm Taylor, who knows not only the unique stock of the Library but also the people working on it. Here you'll find all the relevant books, tunes and records, the original manuscripts (or copies) of such as Cecil Sharp, Maud Karpeles, Kenworthy Schofield, and Roy Dommett. You'll also find photographs and videos, all indexed in much greater detail than is usual. Some of this is now becoming available online.

This is the place to go to look at the tunes and dances themselves. Most of the published work is not very widespread in libraries elsewhere. Folk Music Journal and its predecessors the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society and the Journal of the English Folk Dance Society are the most readily available in other libraries. Visit for details of how to get there.

Outside the VWML there are two other centres with substantial bodies of material. These are the Folklore Society Library and the National Centre for English Culture and Tradition (NATCECT) at Sheffield. 

The main library and the archives of the Folklore Society (which contain, among other things, the collection of Alex Helm) are stored by University College London but books are not on the open shelves. With the exception of recent issues of selected periodicals, all Folklore Society Library books and serials are kept in UCL's stores and are available as a 'fetch service' only. Folklore Society books and journals ordered from UCL's stores will be delivered, usually the following day, to the Issue Desk in the D.M.S Watson Building at UCL. See for details.

NATCECT's resources, which include the Russell Wortley and Dave Bathe collections (the latter on Derbyshire morris), are in the process of being absorbed into the main collections of the University of Sheffield. They can be consulted by arrangement with the NATCECT archivist there. See Also based at Sheffield, but available online, is the catalogue of the James Madison Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress, Although Carpenter was primarily interested in folk songs, he also collected a large number of mummers plays and some Morris tunes. Finally, the Traditional Drama Research Group website contains a lot of potentially useful information.

An online resource which is useful for tracking down folk music collections is Cecilia, 'an on-line guide to music collections in archives, libraries and museums in the UK and Ireland'; go to and follow the link to 'tradition'. These are mainly collection-level descriptions, that is, the entries describe a collection only in broad terms: to identify individual items it will still usually be necessary contact the institution or to go to it.

Although not primarily research-oriented, the sites of the UK Morris organizations are useful sources, for interested contacts if nothing else. The best single gateway to this is John Maher's 'Mainly Morris Dancing' site,

Beyond the directly relevant topics of music and dance, there is a wealth of information to be gathered on social history. 

The first port of call for most studies relating to a particular locality is, not surprisingly, the appropriate local history library. Most counties and large towns have a local history library, often located within the central library of the county town. To find out where they are, you can usually guess at the administrative region and then add '' to produce a web address, e.g. '' for the county of Oxfordshire, '' for the city of Manchester. From there it should be straightforward to locate the library. Most of these have, in addition to standard books on the area, large collections of pamphlets, offprints from journals, semi-published 'grey' literature, and newspapers. Many of them have good subject indexes, some even extending to newspaper cuttings. A typical example of such a collection, whose web page gives an indication of what they hold, is the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies,

Although most local history libraries have newspaper collections, by far the most comprehensive collection is, not surprisingly, the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale in North London. Although it can be slow work, it can be very rewarding to trawl through old newspapers, not least because when you find something, it's immediately set in its social context by the news stories that surround it. Many local history libraries have been building microfilm collections of local newspapers from the Newspaper Library's holdings. See for details.

Quite often you will be able to turn up little-known, forgotten or new information at the library; there's a lot of valuable research to be done just by relating known facts that just haven't been put together before. If you want to discover new data that hasn't already been published, however, then you really need to look at archives. Again, local archives are usually based in major cities and county towns, and can be tracked down using the relevant local government web site. Here, however, you need to be very clear what you're looking for. The bulk of local archives relate to local government, and legal documents on such topics as land tenure. Local business archives are often found. Sometimes, however, there are the records of local societies and other organisations, including folk clubs, and personal papers. For the older period - i.e. pre-revival - the most useful sources tend to be the personal papers, the account books of local gentry, and criminal proceedings. (Remember, Morris dancing was something which was primarily the pastime of unlettered people, and only surfaces into written records in incidental ways, such as an affray, or when a more literate diary-writer records the dancers' performance.)

Fortunately it is now much easier to find information about the contents of archives before you go there. There are three major relevant web databases. 

The ARCHON Directory,, includes contact details for record repositories in the United Kingdom and also for institutions elsewhere in the world which have substantial collections of manuscripts noted under the indexes to the National Register of Archives (NRA). It's the NRA itself,, that is important, however. The Register provides information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records relating to British history, and has brief details of over 44,000 unpublished lists and catalogues. If you want to know about records relating to a place or a person, wherever in the country they may be located, this is where to start.

'Access to Archives' contains catalogues describing archives held throughout England and dating from the 900s to the present day, and at the time of writing (October 2005) catalogues 8.6 million filed items from 390 local record offices and other repositories. It can currently be found at, but this will soon change to

The Archives Hub,, provides a single point of access to nearly 19,000 descriptions of archives held in over 140 UK universities and colleges. At present these are primarily at collection-level, although complete catalogue descriptions are provided where they are available.  Access to Archives and the Archives Hub are each more detailed than the brief entries in the NRA.

More and more audio-visual archival material is becoming available. A good place to start is 'Moving History',, a guide to the United Kingdom's twelve public sector moving image archives. The commercial sector is now gaining a web presence too - follow the 'Links' link from the Moving History website for a good collection of them.

As soon as you get started on this kind of research, one thing leads to another and you find yourself tracking down individual people through parish registers and birth/death certificates, or social history sources such as the records of trials, or of the armed forces. But this is probably getting beyond the stage of finding out what's out there.

All of the sites mentioned above can be accessed for free.

Morris Resources in the U.S. (Mr Bullen)

I will begin my part of this article with a discussion of how to get the most use of that most powerful of resources, a library. Despite what popular culture believes, many materials, particularly older materials, are only available and only visible through dedicated library resources. While you may have learned about these resources in college, it is worth noting how they can be made to work for you in doing Morris research. 

The U.S. and Canada can boast a very powerful network of libraries and information centers. It is fortunate that many libraries, particularly academic libraries, began collecting in earnest about the time of the Morris revival in England. One can find a surprising amount of original material tucked away in academic libraries, purchased at the time as current periodicals. In addition, libraries in North America have a long-standing history of lending agreements known as interlibrary loan which will enable the Morris scholar to gather most if not all of needed research material. 

I have found that, in doing any type of Morris research, it is important to get to know the reference librarian and the interlibrary loan librarian. Make them a part of your research project; they are dedicated professionals who (for the most part) enjoying helping their users find research materials. Most of the suggestions below are based on my experiences working at and in a large academic library; however, these resources CAN be accessed from anywhere using most types of libraries. All one needs is time-- the wheels of libraries sometimes grind slowly but exceedingly fine. 

Besides time constraints, another problem that arises is that the U.S. (in particular) consists of 50 state governments, 100s of academic institutions and 1000s of public libraries, all of which are unique and have unique rules and arrangements. Learning your environment is my suggested first step in doing Morris research of any kind.

Interlibrary Loan

Almost a century of agreements and codicils have been painstakingly worked out that will allow you, the library user, to  borrow or request photocopies of material (within copyright limits, of course) from other libraries. Most of the libraries in the U.S. and Canada participate in these mutual lending agreements, known to the library world as ILL. The trick to ILL is knowing where to find the material you are looking for and what the loan agreements and policies are at a given institution. For instance, New York Public Library, a vast resource, will not lend its materials; the University of Michigan will lend its materials, but it will cost money, except if you are a member of the Big 10 schools (plus the University of Chicago) that make up the CIC (Council on Institutional Coordination). The intricacies of the loan and photocopy policies are best left up to a professional ILL librarian, alas. 

Finding the materials and their locations is a job that has been made considerably easier by using an almost magical database system known as OCLC.

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

I quote from the OCLC website (

Worldcat, the current incarnation of OCLC, is a worldwide union catalog created and maintained collectively by more than 9,000 member institutions. With millions of online records built from the bibliographic and ownership information of contributing libraries, it is the largest and most comprehensive database of its kind.

The OCLC database now exceeds 1 billion items, contributed by some 54,000 libraries around the world. OCLC allows a user to look up a title and find the holding libraries that own it. The item can also be requested electronically through OCLC as well, but this requires librarian intervention. Most searching on OCLC/WorldCat is limited to access by librarians, or, in some instances, access by special library card or other membership to an institution. However, the OCLC database is gradually becoming more widely exposed. In my state (Illinois), for instance, we are working with OCLC to make the holdings of Illinois libraries publicly available (see In addition, OCLC itself is working on exposing the database to the world through Google/Yahoo/etc. (see 

Of course, not everything is available in OCLC/Worldcat, despite its vast holdings. For (admittedly, an increasingly small number) some items, particularly older and little-used ones, a search in manual catalogs might be your next step. Particularly invaluable is the pre-1956 National Union Catalog.

NUC (pre-56 National Union Catalog)

The Pre-56 NUC took 10 years to complete and is the single largest printed bibliographical work ever produced. It is arranged by author. Beneath each entry is a series of codes which represent the holding library. CtY, for instance, is Yale University (Connecticut, Yale), and CaOT is Toronto Public Library (Canada, Ontario, Toronto). This work spans many hundreds of large khaki volumes in printed form, and is frequently found instead on microfiche. It is also known as Mansell, after its publisher.

Periodicals (magazines) not found in OCLC/WorldCat can be found in guides such as the Union List of Serials.

Union List of Serials

Like the NUC above, it lists holdings for runs of periodicals and their locations. It also uses NUC codes for location information. 

Both the ULS and the NUC are being rapidly replaced by online resources such as OCLC; however, there are still gaps, so remember these printed resources.

OCLC/WorldCat is very handy for finding out where a newspaper title is held; however, finding what is actually in the  newspapers themselves can be a challenge. Increasingly, we can turn to for-profit database firms for help with newspaper indexing, such as Proquest.


Proquest is a for-profit company that has a wide variety of information products under its wings. Among the ones of interest to the Morris researcher are the Short Title Catalog of Early English Books, UMI's catalog of dissertations, and newspaper full-text indexes for several historical newspapers. Mostly sold and marketed to institutions, Proquest also allows for some individual subscriptions to some databases (see More probably, you will need to contact your local public library or get an alumni card to use your college library. 

Free electronic resources abound on the Internet as well, however...

Tom Keays' List

 Like the UK site listed above, Mainly Morris Dancing, Tom Keays has assembled a formidable gateway to online Morris resources. His site can be found at This should always be your first stop when you are looking for further information on Morris matters online (or for Morris Matters the journal, for that matter.) Tom has assembled and relentlessly maintains up-to-date lists on a wide variety of Morris topics. 

DVRA (The Digital Video Research Archive)

As announced in AMN first (see the link here), Dr. Anthony Barrand has put his collection of Morris videos online. Barrand's collection of film and video of Morris, sword, and clog dancing has now all been digitized and most of it has been edited and compressed into Real Media format, uploaded to a streaming server at Boston University and, in collaboration with Dr. Frank Ricardo, has been made available for broadband lines at with a "full-text" search capability. The original media have been donated to The American Folklife Center as the "Anthony Grant Barrand Collection of Morris, Sword, and Clog Dancing at the Library of Congress" and will be cataloged as AFC2003/5.

This film archive presents a unique resource, in that it has film records of Morris activities from all over the UK and North America. 

Library of Congress' American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (see is the collection of ethnologists' and folklorists' recordings of many regional, ethnic, and cultural groups, in the United States and around the world. One of the Folklife specialists is in fact a Morris dancer herself, Jennifer Cutting (see The stuff available online consists mainly of well-crafted finding aids to their many and varied collections (see for the finding aid to the Goathland, North Yorkshire, Sword Dance Photograph Collection (ca. 1912-1950) ). Almost all of their collections must be accessed by going to the Library of Congress and using them there.

Country Dance and Song Archives

Another special collection that is well documented is the archives of the Country Dance and Song Society, now located at the University of New Hampshire (see The collection includes personal papers, photographs, and recordings of many of the pioneers of North American Morris.

MDDL (Morris Dancing Discussion List) Archives

MDDL's archives are accessible through a web interface, at Like MDDL itself, the archives are a wild amalgamation of scholarly discourse and NMC trivia. Nevertheless, this is a useful place to start looking for ideas and information about a Morris research topic.

American Morris Newsletter Archives

And how could I forget our own archives? The back issues are listed at, and they are keyword searchable via our search engine at I am behind in digitizing the back issues; nevertheless, the information contained therein is fascinating. 

Your material may frequently dictate WHERE you will need to look for something. As an example, I was intrigued about an 1862 playbill from a production at the Theatre Royal entitled The House That Jack Built (see and Part of the scene at the Ale-House involves a performance of Morris dancers. I have not explored the topic further, but if I were to dig up the text of the play, I would go to the collections at the Center for Research Libraries.

Center for Research Libraries

CRL is a consortial library that  holds rarely used and rarely held items, as well as collections or finding aids that are too expensive for one library to purchase alone. It is a membership library, whose members are primarily academic and research institutions. CRL can be found at It lists 3 collections (see the topic guides link on their site) that would be of interest to me: English drama of the 19th century, Nineteenth century theatre periodicals, and Playbills and programmes from London theatres, 1801-1900.

Pollard and Redgrave's STC

Another very useful collection at the Center for Research Libraries is Pollard and Redgrave's Short Title Catalog of Early English Books, 1475-1640 and its successor, Wing's Short Title Catalog, 1641-1700. Combined, these collections consist of 125,000 titles on microfilm. These are the actual texts of early English books and pamphlets, filmed off of the original texts. Should you wish to see the original Kemp's Nine Daies Wonder, for example, it can be found here.

Pollard and Redgrave worked on their great bibliographic project at the turn of the (last) century. One of the librarians helping them was an ancestor of mine, Sir Arthur Henry Bullen.

The American Memory Project (AMP)

Another striking example of allowing the medium to dictate the discovery was a message on MDDL in February, 2005 about sheet music to Morceau's The Morris Dancer. (It has been laid out in abc/MIDI/mp3 form in this issue of the newsletter, incidentally.) Since this was sheet music, Tom Keays knew to search the American Memory project (see for the original sheet music, since the AMP has a collection of Early American Sheet Music digitized. He found it there.

Any other ideas on useful Morris research tools? Write to us above, at the contacts link, and let us know!

 AMN, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 2005  ISSN: 1074-2689