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 home >> about the center >> annual reports >> 1999 annual report

American Folklife Center Annual Report for 1999

Peggy A. Bulger, Director

American Folklife Center Gains Permanent Authorization

When the president signed into law the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1999, on October 21, 1998, the American Folklife Center gained permanent authorization. The new status for the Center, which had been reauthorized eight times since it was created in 1976, resulted from a year-long effort on the part of the Center's Board of Trustees. The board called and visited congressional offices and solicited the help of supporters from around the country, who wrote letters to members of Congress on behalf of the Center. Permanent authorization enables the Center director and staff to devote themselves to their primary mission to "preserve and present American folklife."

In addition to permanent authorization, the legislation also provides for the elimination of the position of deputy director; four new appointments to the Center's Board of Trustees by the Librarian of Congress; and two new ex officio board positions: the presidents of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology. The new positions on the Board of Trustees help to ensure that the board fully reflects the cultural and regional diversity of America. The board met at the Library on March 12 , June 18, and October 8, and during the October meeting held a one-day "retreat" facilitated by the Center for Applied Research to establish goals for the Center. These goals bring a new spirit of enthusiasm to the work of the Center as it plans for its role in the new century.

Board of Trustees Appointments

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, has appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center: Judith McCulloh, assistant director for development and executive editor, University of Illinois Press; and David Robinson, a minister in New Hampshire (who subsequently resigned due to health concerns). The President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Strom Thurmond, upon the recommendation of the Minority Leader, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, has appointed: Janet L. Brown, executive director, South Dakotans for the Arts; and Mickey Hart, musician and leader of the band Planet Drum. The president has appointed William Kennard, chairman, Federal Communications Commission; Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior; Mario Moreno, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs, Department of Education; and Ellen McCulloh-Lovell, Deputy Assistant to the President and Advisor to the First Lady on the Millennium. The Librarian of Congress has appointed to the board: Jane Beck, director of the Vermont Folklife Center, Middlebury, Vermont; Norma Cantú, professor of English, Texas A&M International University; Tom Rankin, director, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; and John Roberts, chair, Department of African-American and African Studies, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. New ex officio members are: Jo Radner, president, American Folklore Society; and Kay Shelemay, president, Society for Ethnomusicology.

Appointment of New American Folklife Center Director. On July 6, Peggy A. Bulger began her appointment as director of the American Folklife Center, succeeding Alan Jabbour, who became senior advisor after serving as director for twenty-three years. Bulger comes to the Center from the Southern Arts Federation in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was senior program officer. Working closely with the Board of Trustees, Bulger has begun a review of all Center activities, which will result in a new goals statement and a three-year strategic plan. The Center's appropriated funding for fiscal year 1999 was $990,800, an amount that supports basic archival and administrative functions and activities. The Center's strategic plan will include strategies for increasing congressional support and seeking other sources of funding, in particular for programmatic and outreach activities.


The strategic plan will also include a provision for building and maintaining the collections of ethnographic material in the Archive of Folk Culture, which has been, and will continue to be, a signature activity for the Center. Recent additions to the collections include the following:

The New York Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, has donated the Sam Eskin Collection, manuscripts and audio recordings of traditional music made throughout the United States and in several other countries by collector Sam Eskin (1898-1974) of Woodstock, New York. Approximately 400 disc recordings and 433 reel-to-reel tapes are included.

Robin Hiteshew donated a large collection of sound recordings and associated documents of Irish and Irish-American music that were privately produced in the 1940s and 1950s by Philadelphia Irish musician and composer Edward Reavy Sr.

Harold Conklin, professor emeritus of anthropology at Yale University conveyed to the Center for duplication a large collection of ethnographic field recordings, consisting of 262 items, made in the Philippines between 1955 and 1995.

Items added to the non-classified collections:

Audio Materials 2,411
Manuscripts 5,820
Moving Images 9
Photographs 432
Other Print Materials (ephemera) 1,363

The Local Legacies Project of the Library of Congress Bicentennial Program

The Local Legacies project builds on a great tradition of the Folk Archive to enlist the support of persons and groups around the country to contribute to the collections, a practice initiated by the first Archive head, Robert W. Gordon, who invited all Americans to send in their folksongs.

Suggested by the Librarian, James H. Billington, the Local Legacies project invites members of Congress to nominate local traditional activities for documentation and inclusion in the collections of the Library of Congress. Local Legacies has been successful this year in enlisting the participation of 70 percent of the members in the Senate and 60 percent in the House. More than eight hundred projects have been registered by the Local Legacies project team, and more projects are expected before the deadline of December 31.


Processing has been limited by staff shortages, with the bulk of the work being done during the summer months with help from Library of Congress Junior Fellows and temporary employees supplied by Library Services. Nevertheless, during fiscal year 1999, the Center was able to process three important collections:

The Paradise Valley Folklife Project, a documentary project conducted in and around Paradise Valley, Nevada (1978-82), to study ranching and cowboy culture. The project yielded a number of products including exhibits, publications, and a laserdisc. Collection includes sound recordings, black-and-white and color photographs, film footage, fieldnotes, and other manuscript and printed material (68,657 items).

The Pinelands Folklife Project, a documentary project conducted in the Pinelands National Reserve in southern New Jersey (1983-84), in cooperation with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and the National Park Service, to study land use and cultural conservation. Collection includes sound recordings, black-and-white and color photographs, fieldnotes, and other manuscript and printed material (56,579 items).

The John A. and Ruby T. Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip, a documentary field collection of sound recordings, fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscript material made on a three-month trip through the southern United States by John A. Lomax, honorary consultant and curator of the Archive of American Folk Song, and his wife Ruby Terrill Lomax (2,046 items).

National Digital Library Program

The Center continues to participate actively in the Library's National Digital Library Program, and has been the beneficiary of a grant from the Texaco Foundation to put a number of collections online. Three were made available this year, including two supported by the Texaco grant:

"Quilts and Quiltmaking in America" presents recorded interviews and graphic images from two of the Center's collections: the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project (1978) and the Lands' End All-American Quilt Contest Collection (1992, 1994, and 1996). Provides a sampling of quilt styles and quiltmaking techniques from one region of North Carolina and Virginia and from across the nation.

"Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande" presents religious and secular music from the Juan B. Rael Collection, recorded by Rael in 1940 in the Spanish-speaking communities in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Made possible by a grant from the Texaco Foundation, it is the Center's first bilingual online presentation.

"Southern Mosaic: The John A. and Ruby T. Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip" presents a broad spectrum of traditional music, photographs, record dust jackets, fieldnotes, and other manuscript materials collected by John A. Lomax, honorary consultant and curator of the Archive of American Folk Song, and his wife Ruby Terrill Lomax on a three month trip through the southern United States. Made possible by a grant from the Texaco Foundation.

Reading Room and Reference Activity

The staff continued to serve many persons in the Folklife Reading Room and through reference responses to questions arriving by phone, regular mail, and email. Items (containers) served to persons in the Reading Room numbered 1,750. Publications given out numbered 4,807.

  Reference Directional
In-Person 1,611 2,106
Telephone Service 1,536 637
Email Service 670 72
Letters, fax 203 28

Awards and Gift Funds

Parsons Fund for Ethnography in the Library of Congress. At its January 26 meeting, the Parsons Fund Committee elected David A. Taylor chair, and voted to offer an award for 1999 of up to $1,800. On March 25, the Committee made two awards: one for $1,000 to Susan Lutz, Sunday Dinner Productions, in support of a trip to the Library of Congress to research a one-hour documentary film entitled "Sunday dinner: Food, Land, and Free Time"; and a second for $700 to Yucel Demirer in support of a trip to the Library to survey the Paris Peace Conference and Documents of the Woodrow Wilson Papers for ethnographic representations of the Kurds.

Gift and Trust Funds Balances FY 1999

Fund Title Balance
American Folklife Center Fund $5,383
Friends of the Folk Archive $36,912
Elizabeth Hamer Kegan Fund $32,830
Raye Virginia Allen $ 76,100
Blanton Owen Fund for Fieldwork $18,850
Gerald and Corinne Parsons Fund for Ethnography $31,425

Public Programs and Presentations

As a result of budgetary and programmatic restrictions, the Center ended its Neptune Plaza Concert Series in 1995, and in general has limited its public events program. There were several programs during fiscal 1999, however, and individual staff members continue to provide visitors with tours and presentations on the Center.

November 24, 1998, in cooperation with the Library of Congress Reference Forum: Stephen Wade gave a talk on the library and field research he did to produce A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings (Rounder 1500), a CD selection of his favorite performances from the thousands of field recordings published by the Library of Congress in the series Folk Music of the United States.

On January 12, 1999: Alan Jabbour appeared on the program Nightline to discuss the publication of Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation and the ex-slave narrative collections at the Library of Congress.

February 4: James Hardin spoke to participants in the Modern Archives Institute about the Folklife Center and its collections on their visit to the Library.

March 8: Nora Yeh conducted a tour of the Center and other parts of the library for nineteen librarians from Taiwan, along with four local guests.

On April 12: James Hardin joined Library staffers Adrienne Cannon, Michael Grunberger, Martha Hopkins, and LaVerne Page for a "Millennium Evening" at the White House, with Elie Wiesel speaking on the topic "The Perils of Indifference." Hardin and the others were the curators of a small exhibit of relevant items from the Library's collections.

On May 20: Peter Bartis made a presentation on the Montana Heritage Project at the Department of Education for Mario Moreno, assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, and Wilson Goode, head of the department's regional offices.

June 14 to July 3: the Center conducted a field school in cultural documentation at Kenyon College in Grambier, Ohio. The program, directed by Center folklife specialist David Taylor and Howard Sacks of the college's Department of Sociology, provided basic training in essential techniques for ethnographic field research to fifteen participants, who worked on projects along the Kokosing River in Knox County, Ohio.

In July: a small exhibit in the Great Hall of Romanian and New Hampshire folklife resources in the Library of Congress, curated by Judith Gray, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall.

On July 27: band members and production staff for the group Planet Drum, organized and directed by Center board member Mickey Hart, visited the Center for a tour and briefing on the work of the Center.

On August 12: Center board member Janet Brown visited the Center with ten students from a Goucher College class on public policy and the arts for an introduction to folklife and the work of the Center by Peggy Bulger and James Hardin.

On August 13: Peggy Bulger appeared on ABC World News Now to discuss the origin and meaning of beliefs surrounding Friday the 13th.


The Center's principal means for disseminating information and collection material has become the Center's Web site and the National Digital Library Program. But the Center continues to produce its quarterly newsletter, Folklife Center News, and engages in cooperative arrangements for producing sound recordings from its collections:

Four issues of Folklife Center News were published this year: fall 1998, with an article on ramp suppers and biodiversity in West Virginia, by Mary Hufford; winter 1999, with articles on Hispanic folklorist Juan Bautista Rael, by Enrique R. Lamadrid, and ex-slave narratives at the Library of Congress by James Hardin, Ann Hoog, and Alan Jabbour; spring 1999, with articles on Yuchi dance music, by Jason Baird Jackson, hellgrammites on Coal River in West Virginia, by Mary Hufford, and the Local Legacies project, by James Hardin; summer 1999, with articles on quilts and quiltmaking in the Blue Ridge Parkway region and around the country, by Laurel Horton.

Reissues in CD form by Rounder Records from the Library of Congress series Folk Music of the United States: Afro-American Spirituals, Work Songs, and Ballads (Rounder CD 1510); Songs and Ballads of American History and of the Assassination of Presidents (Rounder CD 1509); Anglo-American Ballads, Volume One (Rounder CD 1511); Anglo-American Ballads, Volume Two (Rounder CD 1516); Cowboy Songs, Ballads, and Cattle Calls from Texas (Rounder CD 1512).


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