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 home >> about the center >> annual reports >> 2000 annual report

American Folklife Center Annual Report for 2000

Peggy A. Bulger, Director

American Folklife Center (AFC) Strategic Plan

The Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center, working closely with the staff, has developed a three-year strategic plan for the Center that includes a list of five "Goals." The board developed the goals during its regular fall meeting, on October 8, 1999, at a two-day planning session facilitated by the Center for Applied Research. At its February 17-18 meeting, the board reviewed the plan and the particular strategies developed in the interim by the staff. The five goals outlined in the plan specify that the American Folklife Center shall:

  1. Be the central repository for, and provide access to, folklife archival materials that represent the diversity and spirit of American and world folk culture.
  2. Create national visibility for American folklife, the American Folklife Center, its programs, and collections, through public access and presentation of folklife traditions, past and present.
  3. Educate communities about the ways in which the vitality and diversity of folklife traditions connect us all and create American identity.
  4. Establish and implement standards of excellence for the field of folklife in preservation, archiving processes, and fieldwork methods.
  5. Collaborate with local, grassroots efforts to identify, document, share, and celebrate diverse American folklife traditions, nationally and internationally.

Working with the Library Services Budget Team, the Center has prepared a budget proposal for Fiscal 2002, a Management Decision Package (MDEP) entitled "Folklife Heritage Preservation and Access Initiative." Drawing on the goals and strategies outlined in the Center's Strategic Plan, the proposal calls for nine new positions at the Center, including processing personnel and a section head for the Archive of Folk Culture, as well as additional funding for contract services, equipment, supplies, and travel.

"Save America's Treasures" Grant

A joint proposal from the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress/American Folklife Center received a grant for $750,000 to preserve and provide access to the historic sound recordings housed at the two institutions. The grant was part of the White House Millennium Council's "Save America's Treasures" program, which is administered by the National Park Service. The two institutions have two years to raise matching funds, and fund-raising efforts are underway to identify both individual and corporate sponsors and donors.

Other Awards and Honors

The Center has received a grant of $3,000 from the Country Dance and Song Society's May Gadd/Phil Merrill Endowment Fund to purchase a cylinder recording machine to make cylinder-to-tape transfers of 179 cylinders in the James Madison Carpenter Collection.

A symposium entitled "Folklife Collections in Crisis," scheduled for December 1 and 2, 2000, is being co-sponsored by the AFC and the American Folklore Society. The gathering will grapple with issues surrounding the preservation of, and access to, folklife collections, as well as intellectual property rights. This project has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Council on Libraries and Information Resources, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Bicentennial Programs

Living Legends and Local Legacies. On April 24, the Library of Congress celebrated its Bicentennial with a number of events and programs including an outdoor concert on the Capitol grounds, the awarding of medals to distinguished Americans, dubbed "Living Legends," and special stamps, coins, and other commemorative items. Among the Living Legends were Center-sponsored honorees Mickey Hart, Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger, and Ralph Stanley. In addition, Mickey Hart acted as master of ceremonies for the concert, which included performances by Hart and former Grateful Dead colleague Bob Weir, Stanley, Seeger and his grandson Tao Rodriguez, Kathy Mattea, Tito Puente, and others.

The Bicentennial project Local Legacies culminated May 22 to 24, when approximately seventeen hundred project participants visited the Library of Congress for tours of the buildings and special collections divisions, a reception in the Great Hall, and meetings with their congressional representatives. Over twelve hundred projects were proposed nation-wide, with a participation rate by members of Congress of more than 77 percent–413 members in all. An image from, and brief description of, each submitted project is available online, and the work of processing the collection continues.

National Digital Library Program Presentations

Five new presentations based on American Folklife Center collections were made available online, as part of the Library's National Digital Library Program:

Omaha Indian Music features traditional music from the 1890s and the 1980s–from cylinder recordings made by Francis La Flesche and Alice Cunningham Fletcher to songs and speeches from the 1983 Omaha harvest celebration pow-wow and the 1985 Hethu'shka Society concert at the Library of Congress.

Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection presents traditional fiddle tunes performed by Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, recorded by Alan Jabbour, 1966-67, when Reed was over eighty years old.

"Now What a Time": Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals, 1938-1943 consists of approximately one hundred sound recordings, primarily blues and gospel songs, from the folk festival at Fort Valley State College, Fort Valley, Georgia. The material was documented by three pioneering African American music scholars, Lewis Jones, Willis Laurence James, and John Wesley Work III.

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections, 1937 to 1942 documents many cultural communities in Florida, including African American, Arabic, Bahamian, British American, Cuban, Greek, Italian, Minorcan, Seminole, and Slavic. It features folksongs and folk tales in many languages, recorded by Stetson Kennedy, Zora Neale Hurston, Herbert Halpert, and others.

Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia, based on the Center's Coal River Folklife Project (1992-99), includes over a thousand photographs and hundreds of sound recordings from the project, along with several essays on the relationship between traditional culture and environment in the region.

Field Documentation Training Schools

From June 11 to July 1, the Center conducted a field school for cultural documentation, in Bloomington, Indiana, in conjunction with Indiana University's Folklore Institute. Fifteen people from throughout the United States and Canada received training in the course, including graduate and undergraduate students in folklore and ethnomusicology, museum directors and curators, community scholars, a state historical society program officers, a professional storyteller, and a university professor. The focus of the fieldwork portion of the course was the history, use, and meaning of Bloomington's town square.

Gift and Trust Funds

The Parsons Fund Committee made two awards for 2000: to Larry Polansky, Dartmouth College, in support of travel to the Library of Congress for the purpose of research leading to the publication of work on folksong transcription and notation by the ethnographer Ruth Crawford Seeger ($1,000); and to Anne Laskey and Gail Needleman of Holy Names College for the purpose of travel to the Library to do research for educational music textbooks using folksong according to the Kodaly method ($1,000).

In a valedictory gesture, before his retirement as director of the American Folklife Center, Alan Jabbour proposed the creation of a trust fund called the Henry Reed Fund for Folk Artists, and submitted a check for $5,000 to the Librarian of Congress toward that end. In addition he solicited and received another check for $5,000 for the fund from Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg. The Library of Congress Trust Fund Board approved this new fund at its October 2000 meeting.

Gift and Trust Fund Balances (September 2000)

Fund Title Balance
American Folklife Center Fund $10, 275
Friends of the Folk Archive $73,500
Elizabeth Hamer Kegan Fund $30,835
Raye Virginia Allen $ 67,317
Blanton Owen Fund for Fieldwork $21,288
Gerald and Corinne Parsons Fund for Ethnography $35,869

Acquisitions

Negotiations for the acquisition of several collections of extraordinary importance and size continued through FY2000, and the completion of negotiations appears imminent in each case. During the past year, the following collections were among those acquired through donation, loan, or purchase:

By far, the largest new collection was created as a result of the nation-wide Local Legacies project, with over 970 state and local projects received by the Library, representing a participation rate by members of Congress of 77 percent (413 members in all). The collection consists of approximately 441 audio materials; 24,426 manuscripts; 531 moving images; 13,953 prints (color and black and white); 1,810 color slides; 78 black-and-white negatives; 600 posters; and 4,311 items of ephemera.

Ethnomusicologist Vida Chenoweth, of Enid, Oklahoma, has added to her collection already at the Center by adding a variety of original, ethnographic documentation concerning the music and other elements of the traditional cultures of Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Vietnam, including 55 audio cassettes, 11 reel-to-reel tapes, 55 photographs, and 904 manuscripts.

Turner Browne, of Seattle, Washington, has donated a large collection of original photographs and negatives documenting the traditional culture of Louisiana Cajuns, which formed the basis for his book Louisiana Cajuns/Cajuns de la Louisiaane. The collection includes 77 black-and-white photographic prints and 1,554 120-format black-and-white negatives.

The Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives provided copies of 80 instantaneous, home-made disc recordings of traditional Irish music performed in Butte, Montana, by John "The Yank" Harrington and other musicians.

The Center has purchased, from David K. Dunaway, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, copies of audiocassettes containing Dunaway's extensive interviews with noted folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, which were used as the basis for Dunaway's biography, How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger. The collection consists of 30 audio cassettes and over 800 pages of manuscript material, including verbatim transcripts of the interviews.

The University of Georgia has donated a copy of its Art Rosenbaum/Georgia Folk Music Collection. The collection includes 325 audio cassettes, made in the field by Rosenbaum, that document interviews with and performances by musicians and other folk artists living in Georgia.

Ethnomusicologist Robert S. Gottlieb, of San Francisco, has donated a collection of original documentary materials concerning traditional Tabla drumming of North India. The collection includes 10 reel-to-reel tapes, 11 audio cassettes, and 29 pages of manuscript material.

Anthropologist Joel M. Halpern, of Amherst, Massachusetts, has added to his collection of ethnographic materials about Serbia and Laos by donating field recordings made on 26 audio cassettes, along with 48 commercial disc recordings and 129 ephemeral publications.

The Ozark Studies Institute, of Southwest Missouri State University, has donated eight videotapes consisting of programs in its Ozark Watch Video Magazine series. The programs present various aspects of the cultural heritage of the Ozarks.

Ethnomusicologist Karl Signell, of Silver Spring, Maryland, has donated a large collection that constitutes his life's work. The collection includes a variety of material that documents traditional music of Greece, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, and the United States, as well as the original audiotapes from the National Public Radio series he created, Music in a New World. Items in the collection include: 590 reel-to-reel audiotapes, 51 audio cassettes, 37 digital audiotapes, 3 motion pictures, and hundreds of manuscripts.

Documentary photographer Sergei Zhirkevich, of St. Petersburg, Russia, has donated 28 original black-and-white photos depicting village life in Russia, fieldnotes about village life in Russia, and a copy of his book From Beyond the Grave to Blessed Land.

Items added to non-classified collections:

Audio Materials 1,616
Manuscripts 28,270
Moving Images 546
Photographic Prints 14,109
Color Slides 1,814
Black-and-White Negatives 1,632
Other Print Materials (ephemera) 5,316

Processing and Arrearage Reduction

Processing has been limited by staff and space shortages, with the bulk of the work being done during the summer months, with help from Library of Congress Junior Fellows, and, during rest of the year, with the help of 120-day-detail employees from other Library Services divisions. The AFC's acquisition activities have far exceeded it processing efforts, with the addition of 105,319 items and the clearance of 21,736 items.

The focus this year has been on the accessioning of new collections. Several major incoming collections, including Joel Halpern Collection, Omaha collections, and Sam Eskin Collection, have been added to arrearage reports. In spite of the severe staff shortage during fiscal year 2000, the Center was able to complete the processing of two collections:

The Art Rosenbaum/Georgia Folklore Collection consists of the audiocassette tape reference copies duplicated from the remastered preservation copies of the original reel-to-reel tape recordings made in north and coastal Georgia, principally in the 1970s and early 1980s. These field recordings include gospel, shout, blues, ballads, and some interviews with the performers, recorded in homes, church, and at festivals (236 items).

The Vance Randolph Collection documents aspects of Ozark life in the early 1940s. Randolph accumulated an extensive number of newspaper clippings on a wide variety of subjects, including agriculture, alcoholism, firearms, superstition, traditional medicine; genres including local legends, history, language, and sporting activities. This collection also contains disc field recordings of folksongs and photographs documenting the Ozarks (18,216 items).

Folklife Reading Room and Reference

Reading Room visitors this year have included the usual range of scholars, students, and other researchers. In addition, there were reference requests from film crews and press media, who have "discovered' the American Folklife Center as a source for their productions. On October 1, a film crew for the "Today Show" visited the Reading Room, in order to film the yellow ribbon that Penne Laingen had tied around an oak tree in her front yard in 1979, to express her determination to be reunited with her husband, Bruce, held hostage in Iran. The planned program commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis. On November 4, a film crew from Robert Lundahl and Associates visited the Library for a film on the Endangered Music Project and the preservation of wax cylinders and other fragile recording technologies in the Center's collections. The British Broadcasting Corporation produced a documentary, based on the Center's Todd-Sonkin California Migrant Worker collection, called "Voices From the Dust Bowl," which aired on BBC Radio Four's "Archives Hour" on Saturday, March 25.

The staff continued to serve many persons in the Folklife Reading Room and through reference responses to questions arriving by phone, regular mail, and email. Items (containers) served to persons in the Reading Room numbered 2,115; and publications given out numbered 2,633. The following statistics reflect reference activity during FY 2000.

  Reference Directional
In-Person 2,120 1,888
Telephone Service 1,646 895
Email Service 970 161
Letters, fax 295 37


Key Personnel Changes

On December 30, 1999, Alan Jabbour retired after more than thirty years of federal service, including twenty-three years as director of the American Folklife Center.

At the February 18 meeting of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center, James Hoy was elected chair and Kay Kaufman Shelemay was elected vice chair.

Publications

Four issues of Folklife Center News were published this year: fall 1999, with articles on the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip, by Rachel Howard, and tributes honoring Alan Jabbour for his many years of service to folklife, edited by James Hardin; winter 2000, with articles on Turner Browne's collection of Cajun photographs, by James Hardin, and the Kenyon College field school, by David Taylor; spring 2000, with a feature article on the Local Legacies project materials coming to the Library of Congress, by James Hardin, and an article on the new Omaha Indian Music online presentation, by Laurel McIntyre; and summer 2000, with articles on "Three Pioneering Folk Music Collectors," by Christa Maher; the Local Legacies Great Hall reception, by Audrey Fischer; and "The Art and Influence of Henry Reed," by Alan Jabbour.

Rounder Records has published four more CD reissues from the Library's series Folk Music of the United States: Afro-American Music from Tate and Panola Counties, Mississippi (Rounder 1515), American Fiddle Tunes (Rounder 1518), Negro Religious Songs and Services (Rounder 1514), Negro Work Songs and Calls (Rounder 1517). In addition, Rounder has produced a new CD, Sacred Music of the Moroccan Jews from the Paul Bowles Collection at the American Folklife Center (Rounder 5087).

Public Programs

On October 6: the Center held a reception in the Madison Gallery of the Madison Building to thank Sen. Thad Cochran, Sen. Ted Stevens, Rep. William Thomas, and Rep. David Obie for the support they have provided the Center and in particular for permanent authorization.

On October 15: Center and NDL staff gave a presentation in the National Archives theater for the Fall Quarterly Meeting of the National Archives Assembly in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. "Digital Collections from the Archive of the American Folklife Center: Digitizing and Presenting On-line Multi-format Ethnographic Field Collections from the Library of Congress" described the Center's six collections online and emphasized their Hispanic materials.

On December 1: in cooperation with the North American Folk Alliance and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, the Center sponsored a sold-out benefit concert at the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia, to raise funds to help establish the Henry Reed Fund for Folk Artists. Henry Reed was an Appalachian fiddle player and early mentor for Alan Jabbour. Performers included Pete Seeger and his grandson, Tao Rodriguez; Christine Balfa, Dirk Powell, and Geno Delafose; Stephen Wade; Hazel Dickens and Dudley Connell; the gospel group Prophecy; and Alan Jabbour and members of the Henry Reed family.

On April 17: Professor Saraswathi Venugopal, head of the Department of Folklore in the School of Tamil Studies at Madurai Kamamraj University, Madras, India, presented a slide-show and lecture entitled "Women as Found in Tamil Oral Literature" in the Madison Building West Dining Room. The program was sponsored by the Center and the Asian Division.

On September 1: Peter Bartis and James Billington were guests on WAMU's show "The D.C. Politic Hour," with host Kojo Nnambi. The topic for the nationally broadcast call-in program was the Local Legacies project.

On September 20: the 2000 National Heritage Fellows of the National Endowment for the Arts were honored at a dinner held in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. This was the first year that the AFC hosted the event.

 

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