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Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans

Symposium Co-Sponsored by the American Folklife Center and the
Institute of Museum and Library Services

December 6-7, 2010
Thomas Jefferson Building, Room 119
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540


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Cenon Hipolito
Engineer Cenon Hipolito
working at Watson Machine International, Paterson, New Jersey. Photo by Robert McCarl, 1994. Working in Paterson, AFC 1995/028: WIP-RM-C018-09
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The American Folklife Center presented Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans on December 6 and 7, 2010. It featured presentations by the 2010 recipients of the AFC Archie Green Fellowships, on their research and documentation of the culture and traditions of American workers in New York, Idaho, and Louisiana. Panels also included representatives of community-based documentation projects supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) concerning the role of America's libraries and museums as vibrant centers for the documentation of oral history and the development of 21st century skills. Speakers also included social and economic policymakers, who explored the value of using personal narratives about work to address broader social issues.

This symposium was developed in response to an historic moment: the United States is experiencing critical changes in work and workplace culture, as far-ranging as those of the Industrial Revolution. Throughout America, people are being challenged to reshape their relationship to work, their workplace skills and identity, and their place in occupational communities and civil society. AFC and the IMLS have joined forces to plan for an oral history initiative that will capture a portrait of America's workforce in transition and document the value of work and of workers. Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans will be an integral part of this effort.

The American Folklife Center would like to acknowledge the inspiration and guidance of the American Folklife Center's Board of Trustees in suggesting our present focus on work in America, and especially Board Chair C. Kurt Dewhurst, for his leadership. We are deeply indebted to our co-sponsors, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and its staff for indispensable assistance in developing and presenting this program. In particular, we would like to thank IMLS staff members Marsha Semmel, Nancy Rogers, and Mary Chute for their advice and suggestions. At the Library of Congress, we thank Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services, and Kathryn Mendenhall, Director of Partnerships & Outreach Programs, for their continued support and sage counsel. We would also like to recognize the contributions of Betsy Peterson, of the Fund for Folk Culture, who ably served as the Center's outside consultant in developing this event. Finally, we would like to thank colleagues throughout the Library of Congress who assisted us with the logistics and details that made this symposium possible.

 

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