Songs to Keep

A new film documenting the work of Marjorie Lansing Porter, a woman who traveled the Adirondacks collecting rare folk songs that are being rediscovered 60 years later.

About the film

Marjorie Lansing Porter (1891-1973) dedicated her life to preserving the folksongs of the Adirondacks. Throughout the 40s and 50s, Porter traveled through New York State to interviewing and recording traditional musicians and singers creating a comprehensive song collection. This documentary will illuminate and revitalize the Porter Collection with interviews of folk musicians that knew her, and new recordings by contemporary musicians including; Pete Seeger, Kevin and Michael Bacon of the Bacon Brothers, and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Like folksong collectors Alan Lomax and Anne and Frank Warner, she captured many songs just before the last living tradition bearers died. The Porter Collection, consisting of more than 300 traditional ballads, songs of the 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, Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY), SUNY Plattsburgh and The Adirondack History Center Museum have partnered on a multiplatform project to increase awareness of and access to the Marjorie L. Porter Collection of North Country Folklore, an important, largely unpublished folksong collection. 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 capitalize on this momentum by creating new publications and events to bring attention and further increase access to this important cultural asset.


Project Components

  • An album of new recordings from the Porter Collection interpreted by well-known regional and national musicians.
  • A traveling exhibit about Marjorie Lansing Porter and her work, including new original research with descendants of Porter and the singers she recorded.
  • A manuscript of all the folksongs of Porter Collection.
  • Publication of a 40 page songbook from the Porter Collection.
  • A concert series hitting six locations throughout the Adirondack Park.