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Benjamin A. Botkin head and shoulders portrait
Folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin, 1926. Photo courtesy of the Botkin family.

Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series

Through the Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series, the American Folklife Center (AFC) presents distinguished experts speaking about their research and current issues and best practices in folklore, folklife, ethnomusicology, and related fields. Lectures are recorded for the AFC archive and posted on the Library's website. (See below for list of speakers and topics.) The series honors Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975), a pioneering folklorist who headed the Library's Archive of American Folksong from 1942-1945.

2015 Botkin Lectures

June 10, 2015
12 noon to 1 PM
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building

Nathan Salsburg
Nathan Salsburg

"Listen to Our Story": Alan Lomax, Folk Producer / Folk Promoter, presented by Nathan Salsburg, Association for Cultural Equity.

"You and your CBS and all the big amusement industries represent a way of silencing everybody. Communication was supposed to be two-way, but it’s turned out to be basically one way: from those people who can afford to own a transmitter which costs a few million dollars to the little guy who can afford to own a receiver that costs a few bucks.  So there are millions of receivers and only a few transmitters. And I think that is one of the major –if not the major–human problems now. Because everybody is off  the air . . . . The most important thing that anybody can do is to try to restore the balance. I call this cultural equity." –Alan Lomax to Charles Kuralt, 1991.

Alan Lomax is known primarily as a folklorist and a documentarian, terms that suggest that his work was largely in service of the archival preservation of traditional and vernacular culture. But Lomax, from the tender age of 17, saw a more activist mission for himself: giving a "voice to the voiceless" by laboring to carve out space in the communication system for "all the submerged cultures" and their specific expressive traditions. Over the course of six decades, from print to radio to records to television to CD-ROM, Lomax channeled his documentary collections into the public sphere, where they found audiences far and wide beyond the shelves of the archive. Nathan Salsburg, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), will explore two key undertakings from this aspect of Lomax's career—namely his 1959 "Southern Journey" field-recording trip and its later ancillary, the American Patchwork video recording project (1978­-1985)—and argue that Lomax's technological, curatorial, and promotional savvy were fundamental to the success of his mission. He will also discuss the outlets that ACE has pursued, since Lomax’s retirement in 1998, to further publish and promote his work and that mission—from CDs to LPs to YouTube to site-specific repatriation initiatives. 

Botkin Lecture Series Past Events Archive

Includes descriptions of each lecture, photos, and informational essays from the event flyers. Links to webcasts of lectures are included as available.

2014 Lecture Series

2013 Lecture Series

2012 Lecture Series

2011 Lecture Series

2010 Lecture Series

2009 Lecture Series

2008 Lecture Series

2007 Lecture Series

2006 Lecture Series

2005 Lecture Series

2004 Lecture Series


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   May 21, 2015
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