Press contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public contact: (202) 707-1743
April 27, 2001
American Folklife Center to Present Free Programs Nov. 15-16
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress will present two days of folklife programing Thursday and Friday, November 15-16, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin A. Botkin, who served at head of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1941 to 1944. All programs will be presented in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium in the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, S.E., 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, and are free and open to the public. The two-day program is presented in co-sponsorship with Center for the Book and the Music Division of the Library of Congress, and the New York Folklore Society, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The two-day celebration will feature live performances and panel discussions that expand upon Botkin's groundbreaking work with folklore and folklife: the Federal Writers' Project, urban folklore, occupational folklore, and the local D.C. blues and folk music scene.
Speaker and performers will include folk music legend Pete Seeger; author, performer and folklorist Stephen Wade; the internationally known Irish band "Cherish the Ladies"; folklorist and TV personality Roger Welsch; music scholar and artist Joe Hickerson; radio personality and musician Oscar Brand; historian Jerrold Hirsch; Joe Wilson, director of the National Council on Traditional Arts; Margie Hunt, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary "The Stone Carvers"; The United House of Prayer Brass Band; fiddler and folklorist Alan Jabbour; Dale Johnson of the New York Folklore Society; Steve Zeitlin, director of New York's CityLore; WPFW-FM radio hosts and personnel Nap Turner, Henry Tate and Miyuki Williams discussing the life and career of Jerry "The 'Bama" Washington; John Cole, director of the Library's Center for the Book; Peggy Bulger, director of the Library's American Folklife Center, and others.
Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1976) was a pioneering folklorist who focused attention on newly emerging aspects of folklore in modern life. At a time when other scholars viewed modernity as something that contaminates and destroys tradition, Botkin moved away from the concept of folklore as a collection of relics on the brink of extinction and embraced the idea that people are always creating folklore around their collective experiences.
The creation of the American Folklife Center is a legacy of Ben Botkin's scholarship. He was one of the first scholars to assert that people create culture out of shared experience, regardless of where or how they live, and he insisted that democracy is built by valuing many different cultural voices. Today folklorists widely accept the idea that folklore is creative expression used to communicate and strengthen social values, traditions, and goals. This two-day celebration pays tribute to Ben Botkin's pivotal role as the "father of public folklore" as it exists and thrives today.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs, and training. The Center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
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