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Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis

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Ethnographic field documentation conducted throughout the twentieth century has resulted in both a bonanza of recorded-sound heritage and a daunting problem: how to keep that documentation safe, audible, and available for many years to come. This folk heritage collections crisis has been felt by institutions and archives, large and small, throughout the country.

In 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. The purpose of the symposium, said Peggy Bulger, director of the American Folklife Center, was to "identify and define common problems, encourage the sharing of best management practices, suggest responses to critical issues, and develop plans to preserve folk heritage recorded sound resources for future generations."

The symposium organizers invited participants to address three major topics: preserving recorded sound (in various recorded-sound formats); providing access to collections regulated by complex terminology and differing restrictions; and negotiating the tricky landscape of copyright law and intellectual property rights.

This Web site provides video and text of Peggy Bulger's introductory remarks for this online presentation and of the keynote adresses at the symposium. The report on the conference prepared by the Council on Library Information Resources (CLIR), and an article about the symposium reprinted from the Folklife Center News are also available from this site.


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   May 15, 2015
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