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"Michigan-I-O": Alan Lomax and the 1938 Library of Congress Folk-Song Expedition

Overview | E-book | Podcasts | | Exhibit | Credits

Overview of the Michigan 1938 Project

In Autumn 1938 the Library of Congress dispatched the Archive of American Folk-Song's Alan Lomax to make a folklife survey in northern Michigan. The resulting field work documented the diversity of ethnicity and cultural expression in the Upper Midwest.

From August 2013 to November 2014 the American Folklife Center and its partners mark the 75th Anniversary of the Library's folklife survey in Michigan -- and its lasting impact on our lives today. This partnership includes innovative publications, public programming, performances, a traveling exhibition, community engagement, digital educational resources, and the repatriation of copies of collections to their home communities.

E-book

Available October 30, 2013

"Michigan-I-O": Alan Lomax and the 1938 Library of Congress Folk-Song Expedition
By Todd Harvey
Published by Dust to Digital external link in association with the Library of Congress
Enhanced e-book with illustrations, audio tracks, and film clips
ISBN: 978-0-8444-9567-5

In 1938 the Library of Congress dispatched Alan Lomax—already a seasoned field worker at age 23—to complete a folklife survey of the Great Lakes region. He set off in a 1935 Plymouth Deluxe 4-door sedan, toting a Presto instantaneous disc recorder, a still camera, and a moving image camera. He returned almost three months later, having driven thousands of miles on barely paved roads, with a cache of 250 discs and 8 reels of film. These materials documented the diversity of ethnicity—Irish, Finnish, Serbian, Polish, German, Croatian, Canadian French, Hungarian, and more—in Michigan, as well as cultural expression among loggers and lake sailors.

This innovative e-publication celebrates the 1938 field trip with a compelling narrative written by the Library's Lomax curator, Todd Harvey, and illustrated with original items from the trip, including audio and video clips, field notes, and telegrams. Together, these materials provide fascinating insights into both the region that Lomax called "the most fertile source" of American folklore, and the man who would become the most famous 20th century folklorist in America.

Podcasts

The Library of Congress is presenting a series of twenty-one podcasts under the broad title, Alan Lomax and the Soundscapes of the Upper Midwest 75th anniversary of the Library of Congress Folk-Song Expedition to Michigan. The series will highlight various aspects of Alan Lomax's 1938 Michigan recordings, especially the ethnic diversity of the musicians and collectors he documented. Individual podcasts will continue to be released until September 2014, and will focus on such topics as "Songs and Tales of the Michigan Lumberjacks," "The Cantor Fredrickson in Calumet," and "Joe Cloud, Ojibwe Fiddler."

Traveling Exhibit and Multimedia Performance

The Michigan State University Museum is coordinating two special programs that will travel to selected Michigan communities starting in September 2013. The traveling exhibition Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression external link brings Alan Lomax's 1938 field trip to life through words, song lyrics, photographs, and sound recordings. The exhibit explores this ground-breaking collection of Michigan folk music and what it reveals about Michigan history and culture. The multimedia performance event Folksongs from "Michigan-I-O" combines live performance with historic images, color movie footage, and recorded sound from the Great Depression. Some of these materials haven't been heard or seen by the general public for more than seven decades.

Project Credits

This collaborative partnership marks the 75th anniversary of Alan Lomax's historic documentation of music and folklore in Michigan -- and its lasting impact on our lives today. This partnership includes innovative publications, public programming, performances, a traveling exhibition, community engagement, digital educational resources, and the repatriation of copies of collections to their home communities. The lead partners are: the the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress (AFC) Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum (MSUM); the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture, University of Wisconsin, and the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE).

Funding support is being provided by Michigan Humanities Council, Michigan State University Museum; the Great Lakes Traditions Endowment, MSUM; the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture, University of Wisconsin, the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), and Finlandia Foundation.

Special thanks to Laurie Sommers, James P. Leary, Kurt Dewhurst, Marsha MacDowell, Nathan Salsburg, and Lou Blouin.

 

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   July 30, 2014
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