Marguerite Olney

Marguerite Olney (1897-1976), a musicologist, became curator and main fieldworker-collector for the Flanders Ballad Collection when it was moved to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, in 1941. She held the position until 1960, working under the direction of Helen Hartness Flanders. In 1940, Olney had spent three months at Houghton Library, Harvard University, working on preliminary organization, transcription, and indexing of New England folk music cylinder recordings on deposit from late collector-scholar Phillips Barry. Chief objectives of the Flanders-Olney collaboration included further development of the Middlebury-based archive, and publication of selected holdings. In many cases, by the early 1940s, Flanders established the contacts with singers and instrumental musicians, and Olney did the actual collecting. This practice included recording Lena Bourne Fish.

Between 1941-1944, using a disc recorder, Olney collected folk songs and folk hymns from several men and women singers in Clinton County, NY, at the northeast corner of the Adirondacks. Most notable of the British and American folk ballad singers was Lily Delorme, of Cadyville, who contributed some 80 items. Copies of these field recordings are at the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

In terms of collecting Adirondack folksong heritage, and her multiple additional accomplishments in behalf of the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection as a whole, Marguerite Olney deserves more credit and name recognition than has generally been the case.