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Laborlore Conversations IV: Documenting Occupational Folklore Then and Now

Webcasts of the symposium are now available via the "Program Schedule" link in the adjacent box

August 15-16, 2007 • Library of Congress, Washington, DC

A Symposium Presented by The American Folklife Center and the Fund for Labor History and Culture

About the Symposium

Archie Green Image
Archie Green in his San Francisco home, 2006. Photo courtesy of Robert Hazen Walker.

The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress will host a symposium, Laborlore Conversations IV: Documenting Occupational Folklore Then and Now, from August 15-16, 2007. Scholars and community workers will engage in dialogues and discussions on the history of documenting laborlore/occupational folklife, in particular some of the significant collections of work culture housed at the Library. The symposium aims to provide a forum within which to examine the ethnographic work of several generations of documentary field workers, explore the resonance of archival collections for contemporary research on work and community life and critically analyze emerging issues that confront labor scholars, advocates and community members in a rapidly globalizing world.

The gathering also presents a rare opportunity to honor the exemplary career of the "dean of laborlore," Archie Green. Beginning in the post-war years, Green's seminal investigations into the expressive cultural traditions of a broad range of working communities -- miners, tinsmiths, textile workers, railroad workers, coal miners, and cowboys -- influenced a generation of scholarship on occupational culture and working life. He is a noted labor historian, union organizer, shipwright and also emeritus university professor of Folklore and English.

Selected Archival Collections and Online Presentations of Laborlore at the AFC

While many AFC collections of documentary recordings bear some relationship to occupational folklife, the following collections are especially relevant to the symposium. Please contact the Archive of Folk Culture reference staff atto access these and other materials in the Folklife Reading Room.

George Korson collections of miner’s lore: Korson extensively documented Pennsylvania and West Virginia mining traditions in the 1940s and 1950s, especially music and song.

Lathe operator Humberto Reales working at Watson Machine International, a machine tool manufacturing company, Paterson, NJ, 1994. Photography by Robert McCarl.
Lathe operator Humberto Reales working at Watson Machine International, a machine tool manufacturing company, Paterson, NJ, 1994. Photograph by Robert McCarl.

Wayland Hand collection of miner’s lore: Documents the silver miners of Butte, Montana, in the late 1940s.

Working in Paterson Collection: This large collection from the mid-1990s documents the industrial and business traditions of Paterson, New Jersey, including the textile industry, machine shops, and the food industry, and is especially strong in its survey of the ethnic groups in Paterson’s workplaces. An online presentation of the collection is available on the Web: Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting.

Lowell Folklife Project Collection: Documents the industrial and ethnic traditions of Lowell, Massachusetts, from the late 1980s. For more information see the Finding Aid to this collection.

Men's Lives Collection: Documents the commercial fishing culture of surfmen and baymen on the East End of Long Island, New York, in the 1980s. The fieldwork was sponsored by Adelaide de Menil and The Rock Foundation.

Myron Smart roping cattle on the Ninety-Six Ranch, Paradise Valley, NV, 1980. Photograph by Carl Fleischauer.
Myron Smart roping cattle on the Ninety-Six Ranch, Paradise Valley, NV, 1980. Photograph by Carl Fleischhauer.

Paradise Valley Folklife Project Collection : Includes documentation of a Nevada cattle-ranching community, with a focus on the family-run Ninety-Six Ranch. The documentation was largely the work of the Paradise Valley Folklife Project (1978-1982). An online presentation from the collection is available on the Web: Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982.

George Carey Collection of Interviews and Narratives from Maryland and Virginia: In the late 1960s, Carey conducted more than 200 interviews with residents of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and coastal Virginia, concentrating on occupational traditions.

James A. Strates Carnival Collection: Includes recordings of carnival pitchmen at work and interviews with carnival workers. Recorded in Washington, DC, spring 1941.

Florida Maritime Heritage Project: In the late 1980s the AFC documented the maritime occupations of the north Florida coast. AFC staff member David Taylor was the lead investigator for this project.

Alabama State Council on the Arts Collection on Gandy Dancers: Late 1980s documentation of African American railroad section gang workers.

Maine Acadian Cultural Survey: This 1991 collection documents the forestry and sawmill work of the Maine-New Brunswick Acadian culture. For more information see the Finding Aid to this collection.


Please consult our selected list of books, essays, recordings, films and other resources to familiarize yourself with the core concepts and themes that will be addressed during the symposium.

Registering for the Symposium

Please register by using our online registration form. Admission to the symposium and related events is free, but seating is limited. Reservations for attendance will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Our guests may find the following link to information about accommodations, area restaurants, and other amenities helpful in planning their visit to the Library:

Staff Contacts

  • Symposium Coordinator: Guha Shankar - email: type "gshankar" followed by ""
  • Registration questions: Thea Austen - email: type "taus" followed by ""


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