May 4, 2010 AFC Announces New Members of Board of Trustees

Contact: Joanne Rasi (202) 707-707-1733 | (202) 707-7302

Patricia A. Atkinson of the Nevada Arts Council and Joanna Hess of the Indigenous Language Institute (ILI) of Santa Fe, N.M., have been appointed to the board of trustees of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made the appointments. As trustees, Atkinson and Hess will each serve a six-year term, providing crucial advice and policy direction for the center.

"The AFC has engaged in several research projects in Nevada and has major collections from New Mexico,” said Peggy Bulger, AFC director. "In addition, our archive includes many items relating to indigenous languages, including the very first ethnographic field recordings, recorded in 1890, which are in the Passamaquoddy language. For these reasons, we are particularly happy to welcome trustees with expertise in these areas to the center’s board.”

Atkinson joined the Nevada Arts Council as the folklife program coordinator in December 2007. Trained at the University of California at Los Angeles in folklore and mythology studies, she worked extensively with ballad and folk-song materials in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation archives, and with cataloging and annotating the Sam Henry and Andrew Jenkins collections. She has been a professional folklorist, arts administrator, cultural consultant, writer and editor, educator, and interpretive specialist for three decades. As a trainer and peer adviser, she has provided consulting and training programs to traditional artists, community groups, nonprofit organizations and folklore associations in more than a dozen states. Atkinson is active as a program and project evaluator, sitting on advisory and grants-review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, and state arts councils in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. She has spoken and written on folklore and thematic interpretation, cultural festivals, storytelling, folklore and rural development, the implications of cultural diversity for achieving organizational goals, preserving and promoting cultural resources, the marketing of tradition, state-supported traditional crafts programs, and cultural- tourism initiatives.

Hess is the founder of the Indigenous Language Institute (ILI) and describes herself as "a believer in looking for innovative and culturally diverse strategies to perpetuate depth of communication skills in and amongst indigenous communities.” In her long association with indigenous languages and arts, she has been co-founder and director of the Napa Contemporary Arts Foundation (NACA), and a board member at the Native Americas International Film Exposition, The Santa Fe Arts Institute, and Site Santa Fe, among other organizations. In July 1993, the American Indian Law Alliance spoke before the United Nations Working Group on indigenous populations in Geneva, Switzerland, quoting the principle on which Hess founded the ILI: "It is the human right of all indigenous peoples to have the option to learn their Native languages within the existing school systems.”

The American Folklife Center was created by the United States Congress in 1976 through Public Law 94-201, the "American Folklife Preservation Act," which directs the center to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of "research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training." The center includes an archive, which was established in the Library of Congress in 1928, that is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at


PR 10-098
ISSN 0731-3527