Coming Soon: The Sounding Spirit Digital Library, Exhibition, and Convening

Coming Soon: The Sounding Spirit Digital Library, Exhibition, and Convening

Front covers of Living Songs, Praise and Rejoicing, and Full Gospel Songs

In late 2024, we will publish the Sounding Spirit Digital Library, an open access collection comprising over 1,250 volumes of southern vernacular hymnody. The Sounding Spirit Collaborative’s work is made possible by generous funding from the NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program and strong institutional support from Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Covering the dynamic period from 1850 to 1925, the Sounding Spirit Digital Library will feature volumes from seven partner institutions that document interrelationships among race, place, religion, and culture in American sacred music making. Sounding Spirit project director Jesse P. Karlsberg anticipates the library greatly expanding access to this seminal yet under-collected corpus, changing the way researchers, teachers, and practitioners access and study southern sacred song.

In spring 2025, we will promote the publication of the digital library with an exhibition and convening at Pitts Theology Library on the Emory University campus in Atlanta, Georgia. Please mark your calendar and plan to celebrate these major milestones with us:

From January to June 2025, the Sounding Spirit Collaborative will present an exhibition of select music books from the digital collection at the Pitts Theology Library gallery. The exhibition will invite visitors to learn about the library’s materials through discrete book elements including covers, bindings, formats, prefatory content, and notation systems. The exhibition will also explore key themes in American life and history. From text-only hymnals to early Black Pentecostal publications to missionizing texts of several denominations, the exhibition will showcase how historical events such as the Civil War, the rise of the New South, and early waves of the Great Migration take place in and across pages and volumes of sacred music. Plans are underway to tour the exhibition to partner institutions.

On April 5 and 6, 2025, Sounding Spirit will host a two-day convening at Pitts Theology Library to showcase the digital library, associated exhibition, and future trajectories of the Collaborative. The convening will include community singing sessions, academic presentations, and structured conversations. In addition to researchers and project partners, the Collaborative welcomes practitioners and performers to represent the singing traditions that draw on the digital library. A keynote address will investigate the library’s critical themes and share early insights from its expansive set of metadata. Befitting the cultural context of many volumes housed in the digital library, participants will also share food and fellowship across the convening.

The library’s launch, exhibition, and convening mark the conclusion of a major period of Sounding Spirit’s work. It also signals the beginning of our next chapter in which we hope you will participate. Our team will soon circulate a Call for Participation for the Spring 2025 convening inviting submissions of:

  • Essays that engage books or collections in the digital library through one of the project’s critical themes; and
  • Quantitative or mixed methods research based on the library’s extensive metadata.

We invite all prospective presenters to include singing and other music making from representative works in their presentations. Following the convening, presenters may be invited to revise their talks for inclusion in a forthcoming peer reviewed, open access collection of essays that will be featured with the Sounding Spirit Digital Library.

We look forward to sharing more updates as our launch approaches. We hope to see you at Emory in 2025!