- Collection ID:
- Physical Description:
887 Videocassettes (MiniDV)
51 Sound tape reels
2 Sound tape reels
1 Video recording
1 large video reel
Parts of several boxes of paper records
This collection, which dates from 1968-2008, documents the professional activities of environmental activist and folk singer Tom Wisner. The collection includes original writings, correspondence, audio recordings, video recordings, interviews, and material relating to the production of Wisner's music and his musical performances.
A Collection of papers and recordings: original writings, correspondence, music production, projects and performances related to environmental advocacy and education of the Chesapeake Watershed; audio and visual recordings of Tom Wisner's professional music production, performances by Wisner and friends, interviews and documentation of the life and culture of the Chesapeake Watershed from 1968-2008.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection is divided into 6 series by format type and use of format: Documents, Cassette tape Recordings, Visual Recordings, Audio Recordings on CD, Radio Broadcasts on CD, Audio Recordings on Reels. Within these series are various documents and recording formats both audio and visual that include materials related to Tom Wisner's professional music production, Wisner's personal commercial music collection, documentation of the culture and natural life endemic to the Chesapeake Watershed, recordings of Chesapeake Watermen, environmental programs and performances, Tom Wisner's artwork exhibition, recordings of artists he performed with as well as Tom Wisner's radio broadcasts on WRYR 97.5 F.M. These materials are in the form of both typescript and handwritten papers, casette tapes, VHS, compact discs, Mini DVC cams, 3 to 7 inch reels.
For specific information about the materials in each series, please refer to the series description.
Organized in six series: (1) Documents; (2) Cassette tape recordings; (3) Visual recordings; (4) Audio recordings on compact disc; (5) Radio broadcasts on compact disc; (6) Audio recordings on reels.
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Tom Wisner (1930-2010) was an environmentalist, folk singer and educator popularly known as the "Bard of the Chesapeake" from his life-long work in documenting and preserving the culture and botanical life of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. An Air Force veteran, Wisner earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Hartwick College in New York with the help of the G.I. Bill. After working as a naturalist in Sequoia National Park in California, Wisner taught high school science in southern Maryland during the mid-1960s before taking a job as an educator at the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. It was here that Wisner began to integrate art and music into his educational programs. He would go on to record several albums, all of which focused on his love for and knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay. Wisner also recorded the oral history of southern Maryland, including interviews with fishermen and traditional music of the region. In 2000, he helped found the Center for the Chesapeake Story, or Chestory, in Solomons, which is dedicated to preserving the history of the region and the bay through the arts. Wisner was recognized with numerous awards for his work on behalf of the Chesapeake region, including the World Folk Music Association's John Denver Award in 2002, the Outstanding Marine Educator of the Year Award in 1989, and the Parent's Choice Award in 1984 for his album We've Got to Come Full Circle. In 1986, National Geographic aired a television special entitled Chesapeake Born, which featured Wisner's music. Tom Wisner died of cancer on April 2, 2010.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift from the Estate of Tom Wisner, 2010.
The Smithsonian Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections acquired the "Tom Wisner Collection" in 2010 as a donation from Tom Wisner upon his death in 2010. The donation included materials produced by Tom Wisner, both professionally and solely documentary recordings as well as materials of interest to him that were found in his possession. The Archives is a collection of papers, audio and visual recordings that includes items relating to Wisner's songs, non-fiction, fiction, miscellaneous projects, correspondence and business, projects related to Chestory and the Chesapeake Watershed, live performances, interviews with associate performing artists, Wisner's art exhibition, documentation of the natural animal and botanical life of the Chesapeake Watershed and radio broadcasts.
Items given to the Calvert Marine Museum:
133 Daniels Family (Capn Art Daniels and his wife Del and his father Art D. Sr) 3/13/1972 (cassette tape)
507 Watts Story and Dram Tree-O with sinking Morpy, roll 4-5 4/8/1983 (cassette tape)
520 J.R. Morphy-Dramtreeo 6/20/1984 (cassette tape)
589 Singing at Lore Oyster House 9/24/1984 preparation tapes and out takes Group, (cassete tape)
021 interviews for the documentary, The Restoration of the Little Jennie nd (vhs)
054 Soft Shell Crab Industry: Handy with background by the Wiz 1986 (vhs)
085 Skipjack Docking story, Dredgin, Left Side of Nowhere,Sus Down, nd (vhs)
095 Outdoors Maryland #1602, Includes: "Majestic Adaptation", "Secret Live of the Gunpowder", "Chesapeake Bard" 2/10/2004 (vhs)
111 H371 Gene Logan-oysters, Paul Simons, Watt with two good stories at Morans, spring 1987 (vhs)
27 "Bay Folk Series, Part Two of Pepper Langley 1980" Chestory Archival Recordings 1972 (CD)
Prepared by Sarah Sokolow, May 2010
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Access to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is by appointment only. Visit our website
for more information on scheduling a visit or making a digitization request. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. Please visit our website
for more information.
Tom Wisner collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklikfe Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
Shared Stewardship of Collections
Shared Stewardship of Collections
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage acknowledges and respects the right of artists, performers, Folklife Festival participants, community-based scholars, and knowledge-keepers to collaboratively steward representations of themselves and their intangible cultural heritage in media produced, curated, and distributed by the Center. Making this collection accessible to the public is an ongoing process grounded in the Center's commitment to connecting living people and cultures to the materials this collection represents. To view the Center's full shared stewardship policy, which defines our protocols for addressing collections-related inquiries and concerns, please visit https://folklife.si.edu/archives#shared-stewardship
- Wisner, Tom and Whitaker, Teresa and Raskin, Jim. (1974) Walk on the Water: Experience of Brackish Rivers with Children. Solomons, MD. University of Maryland, Natural Resources Institute, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Educational Series, 103)
The following is a list of commericial recordings by Tom Wisner and associates in chronological order.
- Wisner, Tom; Wisner, Mark. Chesapeake Born Folkways Records FW 32410, 1978
- Guthrie, Woody; Laing, David; Laing, Robin; Seeger, Pete; Whitaker, Teresa; Wisner, Tom. Equilibrium:Songs of Nature and Humanity Folkways Records FW37305, 1980
- Wisner, Tom; Whitaker, Teresa. We've Got To Come Full Circle: Chesapeake Songs and Story for Young Hearts Folkways Records FW 07455, 1984
- Cronin, John; Petteway, Al; Schwartz, Frank; Whitaker, Teresa; Wisner, Tom. Made of Water:Songs of Chesapeake Riverlands Lion and Fox Recordings with Chestory C-001, 2001
- Wisner, Tom; Wood, Diane and children Tom Wisner's Sunshine over Chesapeake, Grandparents Day at Calverton Chestory (self made record) 2003
- Wisner, Tom and friends. Follow on the Water Lion and Fox Recordings with Chestory, 2010
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave SW