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 home >> about the center >> annual reports >> 1998 annual report

American Folklife Center Annual Report for 1998

Alan Jabbour, Director

American Folklife Center Reauthorization

The American Folklife Center has gained reauthorization eight times since it was created in 1976, and this year the Center's Board of Trustees conducted a highly successful nation-wide campaign to achieve permanent authorization. Board members solicited the help of supporters from around the country in writing letters to Members of Congress on behalf of the Center. On March 4, Board chair William L. Kinney Jr. testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Committee chairman John Warner praised Kinney for his testimony, and Sen. Thad Cochran spoke in support of permanent authorization and later introduced a bill in the Senate to that effect. The language from the Cochran bill was included in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, with provisions calling for permanent authorization for the Center, the elimination of the deputy director position and salary for board trustees members, and the addition to the board of four new positions to be appointed by the Librarian of Congress and two new ex officio positions (the presidents of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology).

National Digital Library Program

The Texaco Foundation awarded a grant of $300,000 to the National Digital Library Program ($150,000 for 1998 and $150,000 for 1999) to create four new online presentations from the collections of the American Folklife Center: the Alan Lomax/Zora Neale Hurston/Mary Elizabeth Barnicle Expedition (1935), the John Lomax Southern States Collection (1939), the Juan Rael Collection (1940-41), and a special presentation on Omaha Indian Music to include recordings from 1896 to the present.

Local Legacies

At the May 1997 meeting of the Center's Board of Trustees, Librarian James H. Billington proposed that each congressional district be invited to nominate an example of "extraordinary creativity" to be placed in the Archive of Folk Culture and digitized for sharing with the rest of the country on the Internet. That proposal has been adopted by the Library's Bicentennial Program committee as Local Legacies, a nationwide project to increase public and congressional awareness of, support for, and participation in local, state, and national programs and activities that document, preserve, and present traditional culture. All fifty states, each House congressional district, the U.S. Trusts and Territories, and the District of Columbia have been invited to document in photograph and written word a significant example of a traditional, community-based activity or event and send a selection of the documentary material to the Library of Congress for an exhibition and reception held in May 2000 in celebration of the Library's Bicentennial. The material will be digitized and made available on the Internet and added to the Center's collections, thus providing contemporary and future researchers with a "snapshot" of everyday traditional life in America at the turn of the century.

Folk Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award

At its annual meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, February 12-13, the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance presented the Center with a Lifetime Achievement Award, designed to honor members of the folk community who have made lifelong contributions to sustaining and enriching the fields of folk music and dance. The Center won in the category for "a business or organization that has contributed in non-performing ways such as recording, archiving, producing, or otherwise facilitating music and dance."



Joel Halpern, anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has donated a collection of materials primarily focused on his ethnographic research in southeastern Europe. These include 126 black-and-white photographs of Bulgarian subjects; 12 art books containing hundreds of unbound reproductions of traditional eastern-European costumes, woodblock prints, architectural sketches, and ink drawings; 1 book published in Serbo-Croatian in 1838; 5 bound books containing pictures of traditional eastern-European costumes and landscapes; one set of 5 color illustrations of costumes; 5 audiocassettes of Inuit performers; 7 videocasettes on Eastern European, Inuit, and Lao cultures; and 134 published 33-, 45-, and 78-rpm audiodiscs of primarily Eastern European and Russian performances.

Mary Nussbaum, recently of Alexandria, Virginia, has donated a collection of African music that she and her husband recorded between 1954 and 1964. The collection contains audiotapes made primarily in Liberia and the former Belgian Congo and featuring the music of the Chisaj, Kapanga, and Kpelle tribes.

Adalaide de Menil of New York City has donated a significant collection of tape-recorded interviews with Long Island, New York, commercial fishermen and their families. The interviews, which comprise 130 audiocassettes, were conducted in the early 1980s by folklorist John Eilertsen. There is a corresponding photographic collection in the Library's Prints and Photographs Division.

Significant additions have been made to the Popescu-Judetz Collection (Romanian folk music and dance); the Eleanor Dickinson Collection (Christian revival services in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia); The Vida Chenoweth Collection (traditions from a variety of world cultures, including Kenya, Zaire, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cameroon); and the Henrietta Yurchenco Collection (audio tapes from her "Adventures in Music" radio programs).

Arrearage Reduction

The help of three Junior Fellows and three temporary archivists during the summer months (from June through September) resulted in arrearage reduction of more than eighty-seven thousand items. Processed collections include: the Lands' End All American Quilt Collection (79,559 items), the Library of Congress/Fisk University Mississippi Delta Blues Collection (642 items), the Alan Lomax CBS Collection (818 items), the John A. Lomax Ballad Hunter Radio Series Collections (1,393 items), Alan Lomax general correspondence materials (2,025 items), duplicate discs (2,969 items), and other audio cassette tapes (6 items).
Figures for processing collections for fiscal year 1998 are (represents about a 13 percent reduction):

Additions: 2,100
Clearances: 210
Total Arrearage Remaining: 684,972

Reading Room Service

The event that most affected reference service this year was the retirement of Joseph C. Hickerson, after thirty-five years of federal service at the Library of Congress, as head of the Archive of Folk Culture (when it was part of the Music Division) and head of acquisitions for the American Folklife Center. Hickerson was a legendary reference librarian with an extraordinary knowledge of American folksong. Hickerson's absence was partially compensated for by the appointment of a new folklife specialist for reference, Ann Hoog; and the temporary assignment of David Taylor to coordinate acquisitions for the Archive of Folk Culture.

Items (containers) served to readers in the Folklife Reading Room: 1,941

  Reference Directional
In-Person 2,856 2,681
Telephone Service 2,274 981
Email Service 714 170

Ongoing Projects and Activities

National Digital Library

The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, documentary materials gathered in California in the 1940s at Farm Security Administration workers communities became available online on January 8. Called Voices from the Dust Bowl, it is the second Center collection in the Library's National Digital Library Program and consists of eighteen hours of audio recordings, twenty-eight graphic images, as well as print material, field notes, news clippings, other ephemera.
Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, the third Center collection to go online, became available in two installments, in June and September. The first part includes audio interviews from the Ninety-Six Ranch in Paradise Valley, Nevada, and film footage of ranching activities made both by the Center's research team and by rancher Les Stewart. The second part includes texts and still photographs. Buckaroos in Paradise was adapted from the video disk The Ninety-Six: A Cattle Ranch in Northern Nevada and based on the Center's 1979-82 field documentation project Buckaroos in Paradise. The site received well over 300,000 hits during the first few months of its availability.

Montana Heritage Project

The Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation has made its fourth grant to the Madison Council in support of the Center's Montana Heritage Project in the amount of $198,410. On April 30, students and teachers from Corvallis, Montana, representing the Montana Heritage Project, visited the Library and met with the Librarian, Madison Council member Art Ortenberg, and Ortenberg's wife, Liz Claiborne. Twenty-nine states and two foreign countries have expressed interest in launching similar community-based projects for focusing attention on local cultural traditions.
On November 24, 1997, Peter Bartis met with James Kopp, head of the Library's Logistics Section of Contracts and Logistics, to arrange for the Library to donate one hundred recycled computers to schools participating in the Montana Heritage Project. Mr. Kopp heads the Library's program to participate in the government-wide computer recycling program called "Computers for Learning."

Alliance for American Quilts

Alan Jabbour and David Taylor continue to serve on the Advisory Council for the Alliance for American Quilts. On October 27-28, 1997, in Houston, Texas, they served as faculty for the second "Boxes Under the Bed" workshop offering training in documentation and interview techniques. Again this year, Taylor planned the workshop in conjunction with the founders of the Alliance.
On May 5, 1998, the Alliance for American Quilts met at the Library to plan a multi-institutional application to the National Endowment for the Humanities to place quilt collections online. The Center and the National Digital Library Program are assisting in certain ways, and the Center's NDL quilt presentation, already in preparation, will be one of the collections in this comprehensive program.

Parsons Fund for Ethnography

On January 21, the Center staff committee that administers the Parsons Fund for Ethnography held its annual meeting. The committee voted to offer an award of up to $1500 for 1998 and elected Jennifer Cutting the new chair of the Parsons Fund Committee. On March 25, the Parsons Fund Committee met to review applications for the 1998 Parsons Fund award. The committee selected two proposals: one from the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the documentation and contexualization of Yuchi dance songs ($1,000); and a second from Carl Lindahl to survey, catalog, transcribe, and publish Anglo-American folk tales from the Folk Archive collections ($800).


RECORDINGS: Rounder Records released A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings, selected and edited by Stephen Wade. The new CD is one of the products of a project Wade has been working on with the Center for a number of years to produce a recording, book, and radio series based on his "encounters" with the Library's famous series of published folk recordings. Three other CDs were published this year by Rounder Records in their series of reissues from the Library's series of documentary field recordings: Children of the Heav'nly King: Religious Expression in the Central Blue Ridge, L69/70 (Rounder CD 1506/07); Sacred Harp Singing (Rounder CD 1503); and The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Their Friends (Rounder CD 1504/05).

MONOGRAPHS: Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation, edited by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steven F. Miller, was published by the New Press in association with the Library of Congress, with a companion radio documentary by Smithsonian Productions. The field recordings of slave narratives from which this package is drawn in part are in the Center's collections and have been actively used for many years.

SERIALS: The spring issue of Folklife Center News, with articles on the new online collection "Voices from the Dust Bowl," by Robin Fanslow, and "The Tradition of Yue Ju Cantonese Opera," by Nora Yeh; the summer issue of Folklife Center News, with articles on the Center's "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Folk Alliance; the Appalachian plucked dulcimer, by Lucy Long; experiences as a summer intern at the Center, by Simon Phillips; and Joseph C. Hickerson's retirement, by James Hardin and Stephen Wade.

Public Events

November 3: Nora Yeh presented a lecture on the Cantonese Opera Tradition in a program sponsored by the Folklife Center and the Asian Division in honor of the opening of the Asian Reading Room in the Jefferson Building. There were performances by the Sing Ping Music Association and displays of costumes modeled by Asian Division staff.

November 14: In cooperation with the Center for the Book and the International Masonry Institute, the Center sponsored a demonstration of the building crafts used in constructing the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, "Crafting the Book Palace," including marble mosaic setting, stone carving, and terrazzo work.

May 29: Alan Jabbour and Stephen Wade played a fiddle and banjo concert in the Coolidge Auditorium, sponsored by the Music Division and cosponsored by the Center.

June 18: Dan Sheehy, director of Heritage and Preservation for the National Endowment for the Arts, gave a presentation in the Pickford Theater on mariachi music, sponsored by the Center and the Hispanic Division.

July 24: The Center, the Interpretive Programs Office, and the Music Division sponsored a concert, Shape-Note Singing with Hugh McGraw and members of the Sacred Harp Singers from Georgia and Alabama. The program was one of several presented to accompany the Library's exhibition "Religion and the Founding of the American Republic."


On February 2, Ann Hoog began working at the Center as a reference folklife specialist.
On March 30 and on July 27, respectively, Rachel Howard and Laurel McIntyre began work at the Center as temporary employees, processing collections for inclusion in the National Digital Library Program. The positions are funded by a grant from the Texaco Foundation.
On July 2, Joseph C. Hickerson retired from his position as head of acquisitions for the American Folklife Center, after thirty-five years of service at the Library of Congress.
Stephanie Hall has been appointed to the new position Automation Reference Specialist. As part of her duties, Hall has been assigned to the Integrated Library Systems Implementation Work Flow Team as the Center's representative.
Pending the appointment of a Folklife Specialist (Acquisitions Coordinator), David Taylor has agreed to take responsibility for the acquisition of unique special collections for the Archive of Folk Culture. Judith Gray, Ann Hoog, and Jennifer Cutting will be assisting by tracking acquisition statistical information.

Professional Activities

PETER BARTIS spoke to a group of Pennsylvania teachers in the Lackawanna Valley via teleconference on October 29, 1997, to assist them in the planning for a community documentation project modeled on the Center's Montana Heritage Project.

JENNIFER CUTTING has been nominated to the first Board of Governors of the new D.C. Branch of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

JUDITH GRAY attended the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) in Pittsburgh, October 23-26. She participated in a number of meetings in conjunction with her positions as secretary of the SEM board and member of the editorial board for the society's journal, of the SEM archives committee, and of the archiving committee. From October 30 to November 2, Gray attended the meeting of the Conference of Administrative Officers of the American Council of Learned Societies in Houston, as a representative of the Society for Ethnomusicology. On March 20-22, she attended the spring board meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is serving as secretary of the board. On April 3-4, Gray attended the annual conference of the Middle Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology. She was one of three evaluators of student presentations submitted by the Hewitt Panteleoni Prize. From April 30 to May 2, she attended the annual meetings of the National Humanities Alliance and the American Council of Learned Societies as a representative of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

STEPHANIE HALL attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Austin, Texas, October 30 to November 2, where she staffed the publications and public information table for the Center and gave a presentation entitled "Archives Online." Hall has been asked by the AFS Archives and Libraries Section to compile and edit materials for the Section's Web pages on the new American Folklore Society Web site; and asked by the AFS Web Committee to implement a listserv (online discussion group) for the society. On February 23, Hall gave a presentation on ghost hunting traditions on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for Margaret Yocum's class on supernatural narratives at George Mason University. On May 29, she traveled to Albany, New York, to participate in the Folklore Arrangement and Description Guidelines Project, sponsored by the New York Folklore Society. The product of this project will be a workbook for curators of folklore collections, especially those housed in folklore repositories, providing guidelines for description and arrangement of folklore collections. On September 19, she gave a talk on legends at the Bethesda Public Library, Bethesda, Maryland. Hall is the author of "Archives and Archiving," an article in the recently published Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art, edited by Thomas Green, (ABC-CLIO) 1997.

JOSEPH HICKERSON attended the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) in Pittsburgh, October 23-26, where he staffed a publications and information table on the Center. On October 24, he chaired a meeting of the SEM Archives Committee. On October 30, Hickerson described the Folk Archive's Native American collections at a presentation on the Library's resources in this area held in the Law Library. On November 16, he presented a concert on the campus of DePaul University in Chicago, sponsored by the Aural Tradition organization. On January 27, he lectured on the history of folksong collecting in the United States for a class on "Folk Song in American Culture" taught by Elizabeth Null at Georgetown University. On February 6-8, he assisted in logging the concerts at the 38th Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival. On February 10, he sat at the head table at a National Press Club luncheon honoring Pete Seeger. The event was broadcast live on CSPN and NPR. On February 12-15, Hickerson staffed an information booth on the Center at the annual convention on the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance in Memphis. On May 31, he participated in a session entitled "Songs Learned from Joe Hickerson" at the Washington Folk Festival in Glen Echo, Maryland. On June 15, he gave a concert in Glen Echo, Maryland, marking his thirty-five years in the Washington, D.C., area and at the Library of Congress. The event was sponsored by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington.

ANN HOOG completed a thesis entitled "'With a Needle in My Hand': Contemporary Samplers and Samplermaking," on August 14, thus fulfilling the requirements for an M.A. in American studies, with a concentration in folklife, from The George Washington University. On September 5-6, Hoog was stage manager for "Ireland Over Here," the Lecture Hall Stage at the National Council for the Traditional Arts's Washington Irish Folk Festival, held at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

MARY HUFFORD attended the annual meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Sante Fe, New Mexico, October 15-17, where she presented a paper entitled "Reclaiming the Commons: Narratives of Progress, Preservation, and Appalachia" for a Conference Overview session entitled "Rethinking Authenticity and Tradition." From October 30 to November 2, Hufford attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Austin, Texas. She presented a paper entitled "Reading, Writing, and the Reclamation of Shumate's Branch," served as a discussant in a forum "Cultural and Environmental Conservation," and attended meetings of editorial boards for two journals on which she serves, the Journal of American Folklore and Folklore in Use. On March 20-22, she attended and gave presentations at the Appalachian Studies Association meeting in Boone, North Carolina, where she gave a paper entitled "Weathering the Storm: Cultural Survival in an Appalachian Valley." She also attended the meeting of the Lucy Braun Association for the Mixed Mesophytic Forest in Huntington, West Virginia, where she gave a presentation on the seasonal round and the commons as indigenous concepts for forest management. From June 13 to 16, she was at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, to participate as an external examiner in David Neal's defense of his doctoral dissertation. While there, she gave a slide presentation on the Appalachian Forest Project for the Department of Folklore. Hufford was one of twelve American folklorists invited to participate in a symposium on cultural brokerage entitled "Public Folklore: Forms of Intellectual Practice in Society," sponsored by the Institute for Ethnology at Frankfurt University, Germany, July 20-26. She delivered a paper entitled "Working the Gap: Public Space, Environmental Discourse, and the Folklorist." She was mentioned in the July issue of the Journal of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for her participation on a panel that awarded scholarships to winners of an essay contest. In August, she joined the board of directors of Appalachian Voices, an environmental research and educational organization based in Boone, North Carolina. Hufford has published an article in Orion Magazine (Autumn 1997) entitled "American Ginseng and the Culture of the Commons." She is the author of "Weathering the Storm: Cultural Survival in an Appalachian Valley," published by Sierra Books in An Appalachian Tragedy: The Effects of Air Pollution on the Eastern Highland Forests of the United States. The book includes approximately thirty color photographs from the Center.

ALAN JABBOUR attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Austin, Texas, October 30 to November 2. From December 6 to 9, he served as a consultant to the Fund for Folk Culture in a Ford Foundation-sponsored conference in New Orleans that brought together folklife experts with representatives of the field of community development. On February 11, Jabbour gave a lecture/fiddle presentation entitled "Music and Culture in the Southern Backcountry" for the 50th annual Antiques Forum at Colonial Williamsburg. On April 17, he served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to consider the agency's proposal for an NEH initiative in support of centers dedicated to regional history and culture. On April 19, he spoke and played the fiddle for a special reception by the D.C. Humanities Council welcoming Bill Ferris as the new chairman of the NEH. On May 8-9, he served as keynote speaker and moderator for an all-day program in Glen Echo, Maryland, entitled "Potomac River Musical Trail," exploring musical traditions past and present along the Potomac River. He was also interviewed by WAMU-FM for a feature advertising the program. From June 30 to July 3, Jabbour attended the Southeastern Regional Conference on Heritage Tourism in Charleston, South Carolina, and served as keynote speaker for the conference. From July 10 to 12, he participated in a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sponsored by the Fund for Folk Culture and the Ford Foundation, which brought together representatives of the fields of folklore and economic development to explore shared interests and opportunities for joint efforts. From August 5 to 9, Jabbour attended the Augusta Heritage Festival at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. He provided a lecture/concert on Appalachian fiddling, taught two classes on Appalachian folklore (focusing on the Hammons family), and participated in a special panel discussing the Durham-Chapel Hill folk music scene in the 1960s. On September 4-5, he traveled to Whitesburg, Kentucky, to serve as a consultant to filmmaker Herb E. Smith of Appalshop on a film nearing completion that features Appalachian oldtime and bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley.

CATHERINE HIEBERT KERST attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Austin, Texas, October 30 to November 2, where she participated in a forum entitled "Representations of Folklife: Community Scholars, Community, and Folklorists." On November 15, Kerst gave a lecture/demonstration of the "California Gold" National Digital Library website at George Mason University for participants at the annual meeting of the Virginia Folklore Society.

DAVID TAYLOR attended the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Austin, Texas, October 30 to November 2. While on holiday during the first week of July, Taylor visited the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine, Orono, where he conferred with the Center's director, Edward D. "Sandy" Ives, and members of his staff. Taylor accepted Ives's invitation to become a member of the Center's board of trustees. During his July visit to Maine, David Taylor also interviewed traditional boatbuilder Ralph Stanley of Southwest Harbor, and observed and photographed operations at his boatshop. He carried out this work on behalf of the Maine Arts Commission, which requested his help in preparing materials needed to nominate Stanley for a National Heritage Fellowship. On September 11-12, Taylor served as an instructor for a workshop on the documentation of quilts and quilting, at East Lansing, Michigan, sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum. The model for the workshop was created by Taylor a number of years ago for the Alliance for American Quilts. On September 18-20, he attended the annual meeting of the New York Folklore Society, held at the Hallockville Museum Farm & Folklife Center, Riverhead, New York. He delivered the opening presentation, which concerned the documentation of maritime culture in a national context. Taylor is the author of a review of the book The Irish Currach Folk, by Richard Mac Cullagh, published in The Northern Mariner, an international journal for maritime history. David Taylor's essay "A Pioneer of Modernism in the Victorian Era" was published in the exhibition catalog Truth, Beauty, Power: Christopher Dresser, 1834-1904, issued by Historical Design, Inc., New York, N.Y.

NORA YEH was interviewed on Cantonese opera by Christine Huang for the Voice of America on October 2. On October 5, she conducted a site visit to two Shaoxing opera performances at Pace Downtown Theater, New York City, for the National Endowment for the Arts. On October 23-26, Yeh attended the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) in Pittsburgh. On March 29, SHE was a workshop presenter for "An Evening of Beijing Opera," presented by the Han-Sheng Opera Institute of Greater Washington, D.C., at St. Mary's College of Maryland. On May 30, she attended the Chinese American Libraries Association Greater Mid-Atlantic Chapter spring meeting, which she helped to organize. This meeting completed Yeh's term as chapter president. On June 13, she provided English translation for a Peking Opera performance by the Han Sheng Peking Opera Institute, in Rockville, Maryland. On June 27-29, she represented the Chinese American Libraries Association (CALA) at the meeting of the American Library Association in Washington, D.C. Yeh staffed the affiliate booth, hosted CALA's annual awards dinner, and attended the luncheon and meeting for CALA Board members. On August 9, she made a site visit in New York City for the National Endowment for the Arts's Heritage and Preservation Program. She attended a performance "The Grand Arts of the Chinese Stage," which was part of the 1998 Celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of Greater New York City, at Murry Bergtraum High School Auditorium. Yeh has published a book review in the Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology, fall 1997) on In Search of a Voice: Karaoke and the Construction of Identity in Chinese America.

American Folklife Center Status of Gift and Trust Funds

(fund balance as of September 30, 1998)

Fund Title Balance
American Folklife Center Gift Fund $5,683.34
Friends of the Folk Archive $30,268.23
Elizabeth Hamer Kegan Fund $26,018.76
Raye Virginia Allen $74,252.01
Gerald and Corinne Parsons Fund for Ethnography $30,889.42


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