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2016 Botkin Lectures

Online Archive of Past Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lectures

All of the materials from the Botkin Lectures are available to visitors in the Folklife Reading Room. Links to webcasts and selected materials will be made available online as digital versions become available.

Film Screening: Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business

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Kentucky Bourbon Tales
Kentucky Bourbon Tales:
Distilling the Family Business
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December 7, 2016
Noon to 1:30 pm
James Madison Building, Room 139

Doug Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries introduces Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business. The documentary draws from oral history interviews conducted by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, introducing viewers to some of the important figures in the Bourbon industry in Kentucky. Produced by the Nunn Center and directed by filmmaker Joanna Hay, the documentary explores the science and art behind the bourbon-making process and details how the beverage became a global phenomenon. The interviews behind the documentary were created as part of the Kentucky Bourbon Tales Oral History Project, a partnership with the Kentucky Distillers' Association. The oral history project is a multi-year effort by the Nunn Center in the University of Kentucky Libraries to document the history of bourbon in the state, and features the stories of the master distillers and bourbon barons from iconic distilleries that participate in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour, including Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Maker's Mark, Four Roses and Jim Beam, as well as the new Michter's Distillery and Independent Stave Cooperage. Boyd will be available to take questions after the film.

Request ADA accommodations five days in advance at 202-707-6362 or [email protected]

The December 7 Celebration of Kentucky Continues With:

2:00-4:00 pm: Kentucky Showcase: an exhibit of Kentucky-related materials from the collections of the American Folklife Center, Geography and Maps, Manuscripts, Music, Prints & Photographs, Rare Books and Special Collections and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound divisions of the Library of Congress. In the Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building. Free.

8:00-9:30 pm: a concert with the Dale Ann Bradley Band: A Bluegrass Concert Celebrating The Library's Collections from Kentucky. Coolidge Auditorium. Free.

Canaries, Nightingales, Whistlers, and Transcribers:
Birdsong, Bird-Imitators and the Early 20th-Century Recording Industry,
Ian Nagoski Founder and Director, Canary Records

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Ian Nagoski
Ian Nagoski
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August 2, 2016
Noon-1:00 p.m.
Whittall Pavilion, Ground floor
Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast Running time 01:10:00

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Humans have always been fascinated by birds and charmed by their songs. Caged songbirds and human imitations of birdsong date back millennia. In the early 20th century, the fledgling recording industry began to release records featuring birdsongs: both actual recordings of caged birds and humans imitating birds in styles that ranged from straightforward birdcalls to vaudeville-style shlock to virtuoso performances. During the 1910s and 1920s, the art and performance of bird-imitations produced amazing and eccentric celebrities; by 1925, commercial recordings of bird imitators had been released on six continents.

Ian Nagoski, founder and director of Baltimore’s Canary Records, draws examples of rare early recordings from his recent digital release "Ecstatic & Wingless: Bird-Imitation on Four Continents, ca. 1910-44" to explore this forgotten art form and illuminate the world of vaudevillians and bird-fanciers, of canaries, nightingales, finches, and the people who studied them, poeticized them, and tried to be them.

Music researcher Ian Nagoski has previously explored the porous boundaries of culture through 78rpm recordings of early 20th century immigrants who came to America from collapsing European and Near Eastern empires. In the process, he has unearthed the stories of great, forgotten performers and made their unforgettable performances available to modern audiences. Recently, Nagoski was asked to selected a bird song from "Ecstatic and Wingless" for inclusion on the MoonArk, the first permanent art installation on the moon, created at the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.

Home Canning: Cultural Narratives, Technological Change, and the Status of Traditional Knowledge, Danille Christensen, Department of Religion & Culture, Virginia Tech; 2015 John W. Kluge Fellow.

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 Danille Christensen
Danille Christensen
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Noon-1:00
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:04:53

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Shelf-stable canned goods—heat-sterilized fruits, vegetables, and meat preserved in sealed containers—have been part of everyday American life since the mid-nineteenth century. While industrial canning utilized metal tins and mechanized processes, other forms of canning came to rely on glass bottles and the domestic labor of women. But even in the early 1900s the practice had multiple meanings: for some, home canning was old-fashioned, inefficient, or embarrassing; for others, it was a valuable skill to be displayed in public and mobilized in times of need. In today's contexts of economic instability, automated systems, and cultural and environmental change, do-it-yourself canning is experiencing a revival. The process can be a way to recall people and places, to perform authentic or esoteric taste, and to enact abstract values such as stewardship or self-sufficiency. In the twenty-first century, more people are canning their own food, and more are writing about it.

However, the histories of canning that crop up in everything from food magazines to microbiology textbooks have been strikingly similar: they invariably celebrate a single "father of canning"—a man depicted as a chef and/or scientist motivated by military concerns—and consistently warn against relying on "grandma's" methods. Drawing on filmstrips, posters, cartoons, newspaper captions, canning manuals, mail-order catalogs, and other sources, Danille Christensen will offer examples that complicate this narrative and explore how technological changes contributed to the dismissal or even demonization of women’s experience-based domestic knowledge.

Danille Elise Christensen received her PhD in Folklore from Indiana University and is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion & Culture at Virginia Tech. Her work focuses on the ways people shape everyday speech, action, and objects as they seek to influence and persuade others. Especially interested in gendered domestic labor as a site of commentary and display, she is completing the book Freedom from Want: Home Canning in the American Imagination. She is a 2015 John W. Kluge Fellow.

This event is co-sponsored with the John W. Kluge Center.

Dressing the Past: Civil War Reenactors, Williamsburg Historic Interpreters, and Exploring American Identity through Costume, Pravina Shukla, Indiana University

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Men marching, wearing  U.S. Civil War period uniforms.
Civil War Reenactors. Photo by Pravina Shukla.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Noon-1:00
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor, James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the Webcast

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

The periods of the American Revolution and the Civil War remain topics of pride and contention, subjects of popular writing, and inspiration for costumed performance. In eighteenth-century garments at Colonial Williamsburg and in nineteenth-century uniforms on Civil War battlefields, modern Americans celebrate the nation’s history, and at the same time take the opportunity to air their political and cultural opinions while exploring significant aspects of their identities. Their costumes, differing from their daily dress, help them fulfill personal desires while they join with others in collective public performance.

Musical Soundscapes of Morocco: From Africa to America, Samuel Torjman Thomas, John Jay and Hunter Colleges, City University of New York

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Samuel Torjman Thomas
Samuel Torjman Thomas
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Monday, June 6, 2016
Noon to 1:00
Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd floor,
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the Webcast Running time 01:14:36

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Morocco has long been a nexus point between east and west, drawing upon an inherently international position in world history and its own ethnic diversity (including Arab, Jewish, and Berber traditions) for creative musical inspirations. In recent generations, as Moroccans have immigrated in large numbers to North America, Europe, and Israel, they have brought their unique brand of music multiculturalism with them. Samuel Torjman Thomas, ethnomusicologist and artistic director of AsefaMusic and the New York Andalus Ensemble, explores the circulation of Moroccan music in America and the place of music in constructing modern Moroccan-American hybrid identities.

Co-sponsored by the American Folklife Center and the Hebrew Language Table at the Library of Congress in cooperation with the Washington Jewish Music Festival.

The Transformative Power of Storytelling: A Social Force for Social Change, Kiran Singh Sirah, President, International Storytelling Center

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Kiran Singh Sirah
Kiran Singh Sirah
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 
Noon to 1:00
Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd floor,
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:09:37

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Kiran Singh Sirah will discuss the power and artistry of storytelling as an ancient art form and as the world's oldest form of communication. He will discuss what he describes as one of the greatest community-building tools that we can use to foster, cultivate and strengthen peace and collaboration in our communities, and will also explore how we might collectively use new storytelling forms in the arenas of peace and community development to help establish a conflict-free world.

Kiran Singh Sirah is president of the International Storytelling Center, producers of the world-acclaimed National Storytelling Festival, based in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Before coming to the United States, Sirah established a number of award-winning arts, cultural and human rights programs in the United Kingdom, including post-9/11 programs at the National Museums Scotland; several peace and conflict resolution initiatives exploring issues of religious, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts in Scotland and Northern Ireland; and the Helen Keller International Arts award, establishing disability arts as part of Glasgow’s Creative UNESCO City of Music. In 2011, Kiran embarked on a Rotary Peace Fellowship, focusing on the folklore of "home." Working across the arts, cultural, peace building, and international development communities, he emphasizes "the power of human creativity, arts, storytelling and social justice, and the notion of a truly multicultural society" In 2012, Kiran was invited to give a keynote address at the Rotary International-United Nations Day at the UN headquarters, entitled "Telling Stories That Matter—A Project that Encourages the Use of Arts, Culture and Diverse Storytelling within the International Peace Building Community."

American Folklife Center Directors' Roundtable: A Retrospective of the Center's First Forty Years

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Betsy Peterson, Peggy Bulger, and Alan Jabbour with the 40th anniversary logo for the American Folklife Center.
American Folklife Center Director Betsy Peterson (top) and former Directors Peggy Bulger and Alan Jabbour.
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May 17, 2016
12:00 noon-1:00
Mumford Room, 6th Floor
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:10:55

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Join American Folklife Center director, Betsy Peterson, and former directors of the Center, Alan Jabbour and Peggy Bulger, as they engage in a roundtable discussion about the Center's historical initiatives and programs and its future prospects. The session will be moderated by Cliff Murphy, Director of the Folk & Traditional Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress turns 40 in 2016. To mark the occasion, AFC will sponsor public programs, special events, and other activities throughout the year, celebrating the Center's role in the preservation and promotion of traditional culture. Learn more about the 40th Anniverary events at this link.

Improvising a Musical Metropolis: Detroit, 1940s-1960s, Mark Slobin, Professor of Music and American Studies, Wesleyan University

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Mark Slobin
Mark Slobin
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May 12, 2016
12:00 noon-1:00
Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd floor,
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 00:58:43

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Eminent ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin surveys his research on the musical life of his hometown, Detroit, Michigan, during "my day," the 1940s-60s. He positions his personal experience in the wider panorama of a musically dynamic city of recent immigrants from Europe and migrants from the American South, and addresses the role of the schools and subcultures in shaping Detroit's complex cultural landscape.

Dr. Slobin is the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music and Professor of American Studies at Wesleyan University. He has written extensively on American music, ethnomusicology theory and practice, Eastern European Jewish and klezmer music, and the music of Afghanistan, where he conducted research beginning in 1967. He has served as president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Asian Music and two of his numerous books have won the prestigious ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.

"Open Mic: Stories from StoryCorps," with Naomi Blech, Talya Cooper, Felix Lopez, and Stacey Todd interviewed by Nancy Groce

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An Airstream trailer with the "StoryCorps" logo on the side.
The StoryCorps MobileBooth at the Library of Congress in 2005.
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April 26, 2016
12:00 noon-1:00
Whittall Pavilion, ground floor, Thomas Jefferson Building

View the webcast running time 00:58:54

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

StoryCorps' famed MobileBooth will be collecting interviews at the Library of Congress from April 14th to May 18th. In conjunction with the MobileBooth’s residency at the Library, and as part of the year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of the American Folklife Center, where more than 100,000 StoryCorps interviews are archived, this Botkin "Open Mic" event features four StoryCorps fieldworkers sharing stories, adventures, and reflections about what it is like to tour the country in an Airstream trailer collecting stories for StoryCorps.

Established in 2003, StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind in the world. In 2005, StoryCorps converted an Airstream trailer into a traveling recording studio–a MobileBooth–and launched its first cross-country tour, visiting cities and towns across the country to record the stories of the American people. Partnering with local public radio stations, cultural institutions, and community-based organizations, StoryCorps invites pairs of participants to spend an hour in the MobileBooth recording their stories. Each week, millions of people listen to excerpts of these compelling conversations on NPR’s Morning Edition and on StoryCorps’ Listen page. In recognition of its activities, the Brooklyn-based non-profit has received numerous awards, including two Peabody Awards, and in 2015, its founder, David Isay, received a TED Prize. In 2015 StoryCorps also launched an app, an innovative tool with which anyone can collect stories from friends or acquaintances using mobile devices such as phones.

Joining AFC for this "Open Mic" discussion will be StoryCorps staffers Naomi Blech, Talya Cooper, Felix Lopez, and Stacey Todd.

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Naomi Blech
Naomi Blech
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Naomi Blech began her work with StoryCorps' Mobile Tour after earning her degree in Sociology from Barnard College. As a facilitator, Naomi strives to create a space for all individuals to meaningfully share their stories. She is particularly interested in the intersection of personal narratives and ethnographic research.


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Talya Cooper
Talya Cooper
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Talya Cooper is the Archive Manager at StoryCorps and has been with the organization since 2007. She holds a Master's in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute and a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Barnard College.


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Felix Lopez
Felix Lopez
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Felix Lopez began his time at StoryCorps with the Print and Animation department before starting his current role as a Bilingual Mobile Facilitator. Prior to working with StoryCorps, Felix worked in education and arts administration. He earned his bachelor’s degree in History and Chinese Language & Culture from the University of Michigan.

 


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Stacy Todd
Stacy Todd
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Stacey Todd is a native of Michigan and has sailed extensively throughout the Great Lakes, the Andaman Sea, and the Philippines. She earned her bachelor's degree in Linguistics at Brooklyn College. She has been with StoryCorps since 2013 and is thrilled to travel the country full-time with StoryCorps' Mobile Tour.

 

 

 

 

Global Gypsy:  Balkan Romani Music, Appropriation and Representation, Carol Silverman, Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Folklore, University of Oregon

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Carol Silverman
Carol Silverman
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April 21, 2016
12:00 noon - 1:00
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:13:13

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

In the last twenty years, Balkan "Gypsy" music has exploded in popularity,  becoming a staple at world music festivals and dance clubs throughout the United States and Western Europe. At the same time, thousands of Balkan Roma (the ethnic group frequently referred to as "Gypsies") have emigrated westward due to deteriorating living conditions, and entrenched stereotypes have arisen amidst deportations and harassment. In this heightened atmosphere of xenophobia, Roma, as Europe’s largest minority and its quintessential "other," face the paradox that they are revered for their music yet reviled as people. Focusing on clubs and festivals, this illustrated ethnographic presentation investigates the ramifications of the current scene for Romani performers and non-Romani musicians, producers, audiences and marketers.

Carol Silverman is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Folklore at the University of Oregon. She has done research with Roma for over 25 years in the Balkans, Western Europe and the US. Her work explores the intersection of politics, music, human rights, gender, and state policy with a focus on issues of representation. She is also a professional performer and teacher of Balkan music, and works with the NGO Voice of Roma. Her book Romani Routes: Cultural Politics and Balkan Music in Diaspora (Oxford University Press, 2012) won the Merriam Book Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Dylan Goes Electric! Music, Myth, and History
Elijah Wald, writer, musician, and historian

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Elijah Wald
Elijah Wald. Photo by Sandrine Sheon.
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March 16, 2016
12:00 noon – 1:00
Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:12:31

Also on Library of Congress YouTube

Bob Dylan's electric set at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 is an iconic moment in 20th century music: the folk revival’s prophet and "voice of a generation" took the stage with an electric band, and an audience of dedicated folk fans reacted with dismay and booing. The confrontation is often compared to the reaction that greeted Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring" in 1913, and signaled a new understanding of rock as a modern art form and of rockers as innovative rebels. More broadly, it signaled fundamental changes in American culture—soon to spread around the world—a split between the old and new lefts, and the rise of the counterculture, and its ripples are still being felt fifty years later.

Through recordings, images, and new research, this talk explores the world that shaped Dylan and his music, as well as the varied worlds of the people who loved him, hated him, ignored him, or felt he was betraying them, seeking to understand both the changes happening in that moment and the reasons some people found those changes so threatening. A central figure in that story is Pete Seeger, a complex artist and activist whose work has frequently been oversimplified, including his role in creating the Newport Folk Festivals. It is a story that reaches back to the populist communal movements of the 19th century, and remains as relevant as ever.

Elijah Wald is a musician, historian, and writer whose books include Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Dylan, Seeger, and the Night that Split the SixtiesEscaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues; How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music; and Dave Van Ronk's memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, which was the inspiration for the Coen Brothers' film Inside Llewyn Davis. He has a PhD in musicology and sociolinguistics; has taught at UCLA and lectures widely on pop, blues, folk, and Mexican music; has published thousands of articles in various newspapers, magazines, and journals; and won a 2002 Grammy award.

Daisy Turner’s Kin: An African American Family Saga, Jane Beck, Executive Director Emeritus and Founder of the Vermont Folklife Center

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Jane Beck
Jane Beck
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February 17, 2016
Noon to 1:00
Mary Pickford Theater, 3rd Floor,
James Madison Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:01:41

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Daisy Turner (1883-1988), born in Grafton, Vermont, the daughter of freed African American slaves, grew up listening to her father, Alec (1845-1923), tell stories of his family’s heritage. It was a multigenerational saga spanning two centuries, from enslavement in Africa, to a farmstead in Grafton. In addition to the epic arc of her family narrative, over the course of numerous interviews Daisy shared her own lifestory, one of discrimination, resilience and strength—a powerful and rare account of the African American experience in New Egland from the 1880s forward. This talk considers Daisy Turner’s narrative in terms of memory and within a  larger canvas of social, cultural, and historical events.

The Playford Assembly: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Country Dance and Song Society with Lecture, Music and Dance Demonstrations

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dancers in 18th century dress.
English traditional dance. Photo provided by the Country Dance and Song Society.
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January 30, 2016
1:00-2:30
Coolidge Auditorium
Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress

View the webcast Running time 01:26:29

And on Library of Congress YouTube

Dance historian Graham Christian will discuss his new book, The Playford Assembly, a major new collection of historic English dances published by the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) in celebration of their centennial year. Christian's talk will be enhanced by demonstrations of the dances by CDSS dancers and musicians. The Playford Assembly (a follow-up to the seminal 1990 collection The Playford Ball, also published by CDSS) features 125 historical dances, edited for use by contemporary dancers and dance leaders. Reflecting recent scholarship, it revives many of the older dances based on the advice of a committee convened by the author. He will discuss his selection process and the history of English country dance in England and the United States, as well as cultural aspects of the era in which the dances were created.

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Graham Christian
Graham Christian.
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Graham Christian is a dance historian, English dance leader, choreographer, director, and musician from Amherst, Massachusetts. He holds a doctorate in 17th century English literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is also a librarian who holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. In addition to The Playford Assembly, he writes the dance history column "Tell Me More" for the CDSS News, appears as a caller for English Country dances all over the U.S., and is a frequent presenter at academic conferences on the history of social dance.

 

 

 

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