The Thomas Burton and Jack Schrader films resulted from a partnership that began in the 1970s, when Burton began working with Schrader to produce They Shall Take Up Serpents, a documentary film on serpent handling in religious services. They continued their alliance and produced six additional documentaries.
In addition to They Shall Take Up Serpents, Burton and Schrader also explore regional music in Buna and Bertha; manual construction of railroads and related work chants in Gandy Dancers; Appalachian folk craftsmen in Alex Stewart: Cooper, Edd Presnell: Dulcimer Maker, and Ott Blair: Sledmaker; and Appalachian folk life and lore in "Buckwheat" or A Film about Ray Hicks. The films often juxtapose traditional practice against modern American life.
The collection contains the 16 mm film components (A and B rolls, inter-positives, inter-negatives, and magnetic sound tracks), original and preservation film copies, and converted video copies of the seven edited documentaries. New preservation film components and final prints produced by the film laboratories as part of two preservation grants are part of the 16 mm film collection.
The recordings and films from the collection may not be used in commercial productions without the permission of the donor, Thomas Burton. The recordings may be duplicated and loaned for educational purposes. Recordings may be duplicated to provide copies for speakers/performers or their families.
Dr. Thomas Burton donated the films to the Archives of Appalachia on May 5, 1992; May 11, 1994; and June 26, 2009, accession numbers 1994-026, 1994-046, and 2009-038.
Ray Hicks and Other Beech Mountain Folks, 2011 (DVD)
Norma Myers processed the collection in May 2003. Jen Bingham rewrote the finding aid in February 2016.
With support from the National Film Preservation Foundation, the original color film components were sent to professional film laboratories, WRS in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2000 and Colorlab in Rockville, Maryland in 2002, for cleaning, duplication of components, creation of a new preservation print, and conversion to video format.