The Center for Southern Folklore is more than another museum in Memphis. Since 1972, the center has provided Memphis with an outlet to the past, featuring some voices that otherwise wouldn’t be heard anywhere else.
It started with a few short films, a short film about “praying” pigs specifically. Judy Peiser, co-founder and executive producer at the CSF, says that she’d been making films for years before she started the center. Judy is a lifelong Memphian and creative, the center features many of her own photographs and short films she collected over the years. Heritage Hall, an area at the center, hosts screenings and a gallery where you can view more historical and local photos. Heritage Hall also features some incredible stories of quilt makers, walking stick carvers and a man who turned his home into a guitar. The center is looking to start midday screenings of their films, including All Day an All Night: Memories from Beale Street Musicians. The film features B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and more notable Beale Street performers.
If history isn’t what you are looking for, live music from a variety of genres can be found here on Saturday nights.
The Archives at CSF have been called “one of the most extensive archives of ethnographic materials in the country” by the Library of Congress. The sheer amount of articles the center has is impressive. Judy added, “it’s a great collection and it’s well maintained. From street scenes, to music scenes, to art prints and people. It grew out of not wanting an art collection but it grew out of documenting people.”
One of the largest contributors to the archives was Reverend L.O. Taylor, whose own creations of film, audio, printed materials and photographs spanned 40 years. Because of the massive collection, the center has had pieces featured in the New York Times and at the Smithsonian. The center is on their way to digitizing everything, but Judy says they are always looking for more pieces.
If you still need convincing; take it from Judy,
“It’s a damn cool place and it’s made a difference in people’s lives. I mean, it’s pretty important and people smile when they’re here.”