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 home >> collections & research services >> online collections >> event archive >> archive of symposia

American Folklife Center Online Archive of Symposia
and Related Events

collage of symposia photos
Clockwise from upper left: Pete Seeger, film presentation at Laborlore, John Moulden, Laborlore panel, Robert Watt. Center: Elaine Eff.

Available here are photographs, flyers, event website pages, and webcasts of presentations from past symposium events. The materials available online will vary with each event. Recordings may be available in the Folklife Reading Room for an event or parts of an event that were audio-recorded or videotaped, but not produced as a webcast. For currently scheduled events, go to the What's Happening at the American Folklife Center page.


James Hogg: Scotland's Shepherd Poet Symposium This one-day symposium explores the work of James Hogg, "The Ettrick Shepherd" (1770-1835), an influential Scottish song-maker, folklore collector, novelist, and poet. Inspired by Robert Burns, colleague of Walter Scott, and friend of Lord Byron, Hogg played a major role in creating and promoting Scottish culture, within Scotland and internationally. Widely read in 19th century America, he is best remembered for his novels, including The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) and his folksong collection Jacobite Reliques (1819). This symposium, for the first time, will compare his work with that of more recent American performers and collectors, who also served as intermediaries between the worlds of folk, popular, and literary culture. Speakers will explore issues around field collecting, song transmission and creation over the past three centuries. An afternoon of presentations and discussions was capped by a performance featuring renowned singer Sheena Wellington, who has recorded and performed some of Hogg’s best known songs. Co-sponsored by the American Folklife Center, the University of Stirling, and the Scottish Government. (Webcast available at the link)


Women Documenting the World: Women as Folklorists, Ethnomusicologists & Fieldworkers This event calls attention to the role of women in establishing many of the foundational collections that enrich the American Folklife Center archive as well as other ethnographic archives throughout the world. It features presentations by contemporary researchers who are currently engaged in both national and international fieldwork, and includes brief presentations by American Folklife Center staff about important fieldwork collections in the American Folklife Center archive that were created by women, and that are too often overlooked. September 26, 2019.

Dick Spottswood: A Discographer on the Record, Dick Spottswood, Matthew Barton, Carl Fleischhauer, Maya Lerman, Kip Lornell, Jeff Place, and Steve Shapiro (interview and panel discussion), May 14, 2019. (webcast forthcoming)

The Future of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and Archive Collection (special event) Speakers include Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, Julie Rhoad, President & CEO, The NAMES Project Foundation, John Cunningham, Executive Director, National AIDS Memorial, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chair of the HIV/AIDS Caucus, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman John Lewis, Cleve Jones, Tina Crosby and the family of Marvin Feldman, and performances by Glenn Rainey and the Gay Men’s Chorus (Library of Congress YouTube. Running time 01:32:28)


Ancestral Voices Roundtable (The link goes to the webcast. Also on Library of Congress YouTube). Speakers: Jane Anderson, Kim Christen, Elizabeth Peterson, Nicole Saylor, Guha Shankar, Donald Soctomah, and Dwayne Tomah. This panel discussion highlights a collaborative initiative to digitally restore, provide access to and curate the oldest recordings in the Library of Congress collections, the 1890s wax cylinder recordings of the Passamaquoddy tribal nation of Maine. The collaboration involves the Passamaquoddy community, the American Folklife Center and university-based digital platforms -- the Mukurtu content management system and Local Contexts, which develops Traditional Knowledge (TK) attribution labels for heritage materials based on indigenous cultural protocols. Passamaquoddy elders have been reviewing the sonically restored recordings, transcribing songs and stories in their language, adding enhanced metadata and generating TK labels to enrich the Library's catalog records and the newly-launched collection website. The discussion focuses on several aspects of the initiative, ranging from control of indigenous intellectual property to digital repatriation to emerging digital technologies to ethical curation and community outreach. In particular, Passamaquoddy community members describe the critical importance of ethnographic field recordings for sustaining cultural memory, preserving native identity and stemming the loss of language. They perform songs learned through listening to the recordings, including the first public performance of a song not heard since its documentation 128 years ago. June 4, 2018.

Since '68: Cultural Organizations, Programming, Documentation, and Community Enrichment

The symposium will exploring the themes of cultural work, geography, and community as manifested in the history of three organizations that emerged from the social, political and cultural transformations that reshaped national and global society in 1968: the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, Appalshop, and the Drum and Spear Bookstore. View the webcast of the first panel also on Library of Congress YouTube (CTMD and Appalshop). View the webcast of the second panel also on Library of Congress YouTube (Drum and Spear Bookstore).

Before and After '68: The Poor People's Campaign, Then and Now

On June 14, 2018 the AFC presents a symposium: Before and After' 68: The Poor People's Campaign, Then and Now, produced in conjunction with the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). The gathering aims to discuss and compare the goals of Dr. King's last mass social action, the Poor People's Campaign (PPC) of 1968 with those of a newly-launched PPC, from the perspective of participants, organizers and documentarians of both initiatives. As well, scholars and curators from educational and cultural memory institutions will speak to the ways that these singular events inform and inspire public outreach and scholarship. The schedule of presentations and presenters biographies are available via the link on the title. View the webcast (four hours). Also on Library of Congress YouTube.

The Road Back: Veterans & Literary Writing Symposium In honor of Veterans Day, the Library sponsored a symposium on the veterans' "road back," focusing on the use of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction as a means of coping with service experience. November 11, 2018. On Library of Congress YouTube

Speaker Biography: Lovella Calica is founder of the Warrior Writers Project.
Speaker Biography: Stefanie Takacs is executive director of the Touchstones Discussion Project.
Speaker Biography: Mohammed Sheriff is coordinator of Literature & Arts Education Division of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Road Back: Poetry & Literature Reading Bill Jones, Vess Quinlan, Dave Richmond, Bruce Weigl (related event to the above sponsored by Poetry and Literature Center.) November 10, 2018. On Library of Congress YouTube


On the Other Side of the Mic: Perspective from the Interviewer, A panel of experts discussed how oral interviews serve the objectives of the U.S. American Vietnam War Commemoration and the Library's Veterans History Project and ultimately, the value they bring to scholars and the general public. Participants are Karen D. Lloyd (director of the Veterans History Project), Andrew J. Ringlee, Joseph L. Galloway, Mark R. Franklin, Emily Carley, Guha Shankar.


Collections, Collaborations & Connections Symposium: The American Folklife Center at Forty. September 12-13, 2016. As part of its ongoing 40th Anniversary celebrations, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress will present "Collections, Collaborations & Connections," a free public symposium. The panels highlight the Center's unparalleled collections, explore innovative approaches to cultural documentation, and focus on current best practices regarding ownership rights and access to archival resources in today's rapidly changing digital landscape. Research scholars, community members, documentarians, and archivists at a range of cultural institutions will discuss historical initiatives, current challenges, and emerging trends in dialogue with audience members and American Folklife Center staff.


Civil Rights, Identity and Sovereignty: Native American Perspectives on History, Law, and the Path Ahead. September 10, 2015. Produced in conjunction with the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM). The featured presenters are:-Walter Echo Hawk (Pawnee), LLS, author; -Malinda Maynor Lowery (Lumbee), Associate Professor, UNC Chapel Hill;--Tim Tingle (Choctaw), story-teller, author; LaDonna Harris (Comanche), President, Americans for Indian Opportunity. View the webcast Running time 2:15:22 Also on Library of Congress YouTube.

Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line. September 10, 2015. This symposium features Henry Glassie, Clifford Murphy, and other scholars of music and folklore discussing the impact of Ola Belle Reed’s legacy on traditional music today and talking about the new publication Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line, which features the recordings made by Glassie and Murphy. The symposium is free and open to the public.

Documenting Culture in the Twenty-First Century. June 4, 2015. This symposium presents a sampler of innovative contemporary approaches to fieldwork. Some of them are directly related to more traditional methods of ethnographic documentation, archiving, and presentation, while others are a little further afield. Speakers considered how evolving approaches to ethics, social justice, ownership rights, and privacy are affecting the acquisition, stewardship, and sharing of materials at repositories like the Library of Congress. (webcasts forthcoming)


Organizing Across the Boundaries: Strategies and Coalitions in the Struggle for Civil Rights and Social Justice, September 25, 2014. (webcasts forthcoming).

Coffeehouses: Folk Music, Culture, and Counterculture. This forum brings together notable coffeehouse producer Betsy Siggins from Boston's legendary Club 47, Caffè Lena History Project founder and producer Jocelyn Arem, filmmaker and documentarian Todd Kwait, and Baltimore-based performer and "open mic" organizer Rob Hinkal to explore folk music coffeehouses, both then and now. They discuss the important role these distinctive venues played in the development, maintenance, and expansion of American folk music; how coffeehouses introduced grass-roots rural performers to urban Americans; coffeehouses' contributions to the rise of singer-songwriters; and how coffeehouse "folk clubs" created a circuit of establishments that supported the rise of contemporary American folk music. April 11, 2014.


Cultural Heritage Archives: Networks, Innovation & Collaboration, a symposium addressing ethnographic archival thought and practice. September 26-27, 2013


The Stations that Spoke Your Language: Radio and the Yiddish American Cultural Renaissance: September 6-7 2012. Leading Yiddish language and culture experts joined media scholars and Library of Congress specialists to address Yiddish radio in America: its history and cultural impact, its continuing influence on American media, and its multifaceted legacy.


Literatura de Cordel: Continuity and Change in Brazilian Popular Literature: September 26-27, 2011. Presentations at this symposium focused on the history of literatura de cordel, a form of popular literature from northeastern Brazil, as well as accompanying traditions. These include the composition of poems, lyrics, and stories; the creation of woodblock images; and performances inspired by literatura de cordel. The symposium drew attention to the American Folklife Center's collections of literatura de cordel, which are among the most extensive in the world. The symposium also explored the artistry, narrative, and iconography of cordel in order to examine the tradition during the recent past, and to encourage research on these compelling collections. Noted scholars of cordel were featured, as will the artistry of cordel poets, singers, and woodcut artists. The symposium was timed to coincide with this year's Organization of American States' Inter-American Year of Culture.


Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans: December 6-7, 2010. This symposium featured presentations by the 2010 recipients of the AFC Archie Green Fellowships, conserning their documentation of the culture and traditions of American workers in New York, Idaho, and Louisiana. Panels also included representatives of community-based documentation projects supported by IMLS who discussed the role of America's libraries and museums as centers for the documentation of oral history and the development of 21st century skills.  Speakers also included social and economic policymakers exploring the value of using personal narratives about work to address broader social issues.

Borderlines / Borderlands: Culture and the Canadian-U.S. International Boundary: This free public symposium, co-sponsored by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Canadian Embassy, was held on June 15 and June 16, 2010 and brought together leading Canadian and U.S. scholars to explore the history, cultures, and traditions of regions and communities along the U.S.-Canada border.


Unsung Heroes: A Symposium on the Heroism of Asian Pacific Americans During World War II October 26, 2009. View the webcasts: Part 1 and Part 2. The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress Asian Division Friends Society will co-host a special commemorative program honoring Asian Pacific American heroism during World War II. This session of the symposium includes Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's overview of the war in the Pacific Theater, Anna Chennault's recollection of her life with the Flying Tigers and Poet Vince Gotera performing a dramatic reading from his book "Ghost Wars."

Baseball Americana Symposium October 2-3, 2009
Baseball Americana was a unique celebration of our national pastime, held at the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress.

Legends and Legacies:
An American Folklife Center Celebration of Public Folklore

On September 10-11, 2009, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress hosted a two-day event including a tribute, a symposium, and a concert, honoring folklorists Archie Green and Joe Wilson, and celebrating the acquisition of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) Collection by the Center's archive. The multifaceted event featured spoken tributes, musical performances, panel discussions, and rare glimpses at archival treasures, and was crowned by a magnificent evening concert in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium.

Robert Burns at 250: Poetry, Politics, and Performance, February, 2009. To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Scottish Government, presented a free public symposium on Burns’s life and work, as well as his impact on America and American culture. The web site for this event includes a list of Burns-related resources with links.


Art, Culture, and Government: the New Deal at 75, March, 2008. This symposium was aimed at re-focusing attention on the New Deal, the multi-faceted social, cultural, and fiscal recovery programs launched by the Roosevelt administration in 1933, to reform and reinvigorate national life in the wake of the Great Depression. The symposium focused especially on cultural documentation performed by New Deal programs, and its impact on collections at the Library of Congress and elsewhere.

Rediscover Northern Ireland Programme 2008 events: In 2008 the Rediscover Northern Ireland Programme continued, with events hosted by the American Folklife Center, including a concert by Tommy Sands and family, a lecture on the song tradition of Ulster by Len Graham, and a lecture on the shift from handloom to industrial linen weaving and related songs by Maurice Leydan. Select the link for more information and webcasts.


Laborlore Conversations IV: Documenting Occupational Folklore Then and Now, August, 2007. Scholars and community workers gathered at the Library of Congress to engage in dialogues and discussions on the history of documenting laborlore (or occupational folklife). In particular, some of the significant collections of work culture housed at the Library were discussed.

Rediscover Northern Ireland Programme, May, 2007. This site presents materials from related concerts and lectures as well as the symposium "All through the North, As I Walked Forth...": Northern Ireland's Place Names, Folklife and Landscape with Kay Muhr and Henry Glassie.

How Can I Keep from Singing? A Seeger Family Tribute, March, 2007. The Library of Congress paid tribute to one of America's most enduring musical legacies in this two-day celebration. Events included a symposium, a concert, and a special screening of archival films.


SAA Pre-Conference Symposium: Ethnographic Archives, Communities of Origin, and Intangible Cultural Heritage, August, 2006. This event was co-sponsored by the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress; the National Anthropological Archives & Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution; and the Native American Archives Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists.


In Country: The Vietnam War, 30 Years After May, 2005. The Veterans History Project hosted a symposium which included General Julius Becton, Jr. (U.S. Army, Ret.), Vietnam veteran and educator; Bernard Kalb, a veteran journalist, author and founding anchor on the weekly CNN program Reliable Sources; Stanley Karnow, World War II veteran, journalists and author of "Vietnam: A History;" and panelist/moderator, Dr. Daun van Ee of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division and Vietnam veteran and specialist in 20th century military history. (This link goes directly to the webcast of the symposium)

War's End: Eyewitness to History Symposium May, 2005. A symposium marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was presented by the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Thursday, May 26, 2005.


Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis, December, 2000. The American Folklife Center and the American Folklore Society sponsored a symposium at the Library of Congress for over one hundred invited experts and observers, who discussed what they are individually and collectively doing, or hoping to do, to respond to the crisis in preserving and documenting historic archival recordings in all media. All of the keynote addresses are available in text form.


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