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Research Center American Folklife Center

Board of Trustees

According to the American Folklife Center's founding legislation, the Center receives policy guidance from a Board of Trustees made up of representatives from departments and agencies of the federal government concerned with some aspect of American folklife traditions and the arts; the heads of four of the major federal institutions concerned with culture and the arts (see below); persons from private life who are able to provide regional balance; and the director of the Center. Included in the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1999, are provisions for the board to also include four members appointed by the Librarian of Congress, and, ex officio, the president of the American Folklore Society and the president of the Society for Ethnomusicology. The board regularly reviews the operations of the Center, engages in long-range planning and policy formulation, and shares information on matters of cultural programming.

Congressional Appointees

  • Anne Arrington

    Anne Arrington worked as Associate Director for Policy in the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Texas Tech University Museum of Art. A passion for music, art, and diverse cultures comes from a childhood in New Orleans, training in cultural anthropology, teaching English abroad, and from fifteen years living in the Southwest. She is married to Rep. Jodey Arrington, who represents Texas’ District 19 in Congress, with whom she has three children.

  • Jean Dorton

    Jean Dorton has been a life-long proponent of the arts in her native Kentucky. She has served as a board member for various organizations, including the Kentucky Folk Art Museum, the Kentucky Arts Council, East Kentucky Concert Series, OperaLex, and the Apple Festival Arts and Crafts Board. She has also served as the Community and Legislative Liaison of Big Sandy Community and Technical College external link in Paintsville, Kentucky.

  • Amy Kitchener

    Amy Kitchener co-founded the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in 1997 and is its current executive director. ACTA's work has focused on social change through grantmaking, capacity and leadership development, technical assistance, and bilingual program development. Trained as a public folklorist with an MA from UCLA, Amy has piloted participatory cultural asset mapping in neglected and rural areas of the state and consults with other organizations and across sectors on this method of discovery and inclusion of community voices.

  • Natalie Merchant

    Natalie Merchant is a musician, vocalist, and lyricist, who began her musical career with the pop band 10,000 Maniacs in 1981. Since 1994 she’s worked as a solo artist, recording originals and traditional songs inspired by archival collections. She has served on the New York State Council on the Arts, and has received numerous awards, including the Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library, the American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers Champion Award, and the John Lennon Real Love Award.

  • Heather Obernolte

    Heather Obernolte serves as an advisor to the Big Bear School District in Southern California. Holding an MA in Child Psychology from Pepperdine University, she served as board member and Chairperson for DOVES (Domestic Violence Education and Services) and has been a member of the Hospital Foundation, Venture Club, Big Bear Mom’s Club. She is the President Elect of Soroptimist International of Big Bear Valley, California. She is married to Rep. Jay Obernolte, who represents California’s District 23 in Congress.

  • John Patrick Rice

    John Patrick Rice is Producing Artistic Director and Professor at Great Basin College external link in Elko, Nevada. He has served as Chief Development Officer (2005–2015) for Great Basin College, and founded the theater program in 1996. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a PhD in Education from Capella University.

  • Robert Anacletus Underwood

    A former member of the U.S. Congress, Robert Anacletus Underwood was the president of the University of Guam from 2008–2018. He has also served as a classroom teacher, curriculum writer, school administrator, Guam school board member, dean of the College of Education and academic vice president at the University of Guam. He is acknowledged as a leading authority on cultural, educational, and linguistic issues, as well as federal-territorial relations, in Guam and Micronesia.

Presidential Appointees

  • Sara C. Bronin

    An architect and attorney, Sara C. Bronin is Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and a Professor at Cornell University. Her interdisciplinary research in the areas of property, land use, historic preservation, and energy focuses on the roles law and policy play in equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places. She has published five books and treatises, as well as dozens of articles, book chapters, and shorter works on these topics.

  • Rachel Leland Levine

    Rachel Leland Levine is the 17th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this position, Levine works to assist the nation overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and build a healthier future. Admiral Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. Levine completed her training in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

  • Jessica Looman

    Jessica Looman is the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at the U.S. Department of Labor, which enforces worker protections and provides outreach and education about federal labor laws including minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and family and medical leave. Before joining WHD, Jessica served as the Executive Director of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council.

  • Charles F. Sams III

    Charles F. Sams III is the 19th director of the National Park Service. He is Cayuse and Walla Walla, as well as an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Northeast Oregon, where he grew up. For 30 years, Sams has worked in tribal and state government, and in the non-profit natural resource and conservation management field, with an emphasis on land preservation for current and future generations. A US Navy veteran, Sams holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Concordia University, and a Master of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma School of Law.

Librarian Appointees

  • Martha Gonzalez

    Martha Gonzalez is a 2022 MacArthur fellow and a Chicana "artivista" (artist/activist), who combines her passions as a musician, feminist scholar, and activist. Born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, González teaches Chicano/a Latino/a studies at Scripps College external link. She has been a Fulbright Scholar (2007–2008), a Ford Fellow (2012–2013), a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (2016–2017), and a United States Artist Fellow (2020). Her academic interests have been fueled by her work as a vocalist, songwriter, and percussionist for the Grammy-award (2013) winning rock band Quetzal.

  • Heather L. Hodges

    Heather L. Hodges is the director of external relations at the Historic New Orleans Collection external link--a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. She was the executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a federal National Heritage Area, from 2017–2020. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Joyner Institute for Gullah Geechee and African Diaspora Studies at Coastal Carolina University.

  • Lori Pourier

    Lori Pourier (Oglala Lakota) is the President of the First Peoples Fund external link (FPF) --an organization supporting Indigenous culture bearers, artists, youth, and community-based organizations located in tribal Nations. Under Ms. Pourier's leadership, FPF has directly supported nearly 5,000 Native cultural bearers and artists since 1999. Over her 28 years of work in the arts, social justice, and community development, Pourier has reconnected Native communities to their cultural assets and brought new philanthropic resources to Indigenous artists and culture bearers.

  • Ricky Punzalan

    Ricky Punzalan is an Associate Professor in the School of Information and Director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Michigan external link. Punzalan's research has raised the profile of critical challenges faced by underserved and Indigenous communities, while creating dialogues between communities and cultural institutions. He has held elected leadership posts in the Society of American Archivists and co-chairs the Archival Repatriation Committee of the Society of American Archivists.

Ex Officio Members

  • Dr. Carla Hayden

    Dr. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13. Hayden is the former CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, a position she held from 1993–2016. Hayden was also deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993 and an Assistant Professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991.

  • Nicole Saylor

    Nicole Saylor is Director of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress. The U.S. Congress designated the AFC as the national center for folklife documentation and research in 1976. AFC works with communities to document living traditional culture, while preserving the nation's oldest and largest archive of ethnographic documentation. Saylor has led the Library's Digital Innovation Lab, which shares the Library's content and connects with researchers, artists, and the public in creative ways. She served as the Head, and then Director, of the Center's Archive of Folk Culture from 2012 to 2021.

  • Lonnie G. Bunch III

    Lonnie G. Bunch III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution external link. As Secretary, he oversees 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers. Bunch was the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture from 2005–2016. Since its inception, the museum has welcomed more than 5 million visitors and compiled a collection of 40,000 objects that are housed in the first “green building” on the National Mall.

  • Tomie Hahn

    Tomie Hahn is the president elect of the Society for Ethnomusicology external link, Professor Emerita at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a practicing artist. She is a performer of shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), nihon buyo (Japanese traditional dance), and experimental performance. Dr. Hahn’s research topics include Japanese traditional performing arts, Monster Truck rallies, issues of display, the senses and transmission, movement and gesture, and relationships of technology and culture. Her 2008 book, Sensational Knowledge: Embodying Culture through Japanese Dance (Wesleyan University Press) was awarded the Alan P. Merriam prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology.

  • Maria Rosario Jackson

    Maria Rosario Jackson is the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the nation's first African American and Mexican American woman to hold the position. Dr. Jackson has had a long career in strategic planning, policy research, and evaluation with philanthropy, government, and non-profit organizations. Dr. Jackson was appointed to the National Council on the Arts by President Barack Obama in 2012. Dr. Jackson was co-chair of the County of Los Angeles Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative and, most recently, served on the advisory boards of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Equity Center at the University of Virginia, the Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), and L.A. Commons. Dr. Jackson holds a doctorate in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

  • Crosby Kemper III

    Crosby Kemper III is the sixth director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)  --an independent government agency and the primary source of federal support for the nation's museums and libraries. Before his work at IMLS, Kemper was Director of the Kansas City Public Library and served as chair of the board of directors at the Schools, Health, & Libraries Broadband Coalition. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University.

  • Shelley C. Lowe

    Shelley C. Lowe is Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. From 2015 to 2021, she served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory body to NEH, an appointment she received from President Barack Obama. Lowe's career in higher education has included roles as Executive Director of the Harvard University Native American Program, Assistant Dean in the Yale College Deans Office, Director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University, and Graduate Education Program Facilitator for the American Indian Studies Programs at the University of Arizona. Lowe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Master of Arts in American Indian Studies, and has completed doctoral coursework in Higher Education from the University of Arizona.

  • Denis Richard McDonough

    Denis Richard McDonough is the 11th U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs. From February 2013 to January 2017, Secretary McDonough was the 26th White House Chief of Staff in President Barack Obama's administration. After his White House tenure, Secretary McDonough served as Professor of the Practice of Public Policy at the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame as a Senior Advisor and Senior Principal at the Markle Foundation. McDonough has served on the board of directors of the National Democratic Institute, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, and the SAFE Project, a non-profit working to end the nation’s addiction epidemic.

  • Marilyn White

    Marilyn White is President of the American Folklore Society external link. Dr. White is a retired Professor of Anthropology at Kean University in New Jersey, where she taught from 1985 to 2011. She is the long-term President of the Association of African and African American Folklorists and is on the board of the New Jersey Folklore Society and of City Lore (NYC). Dr. White received her Ph.D. in Anthropology (Folklore) from The University of Texas at Austin, her MA in Folklore from Indiana University, and her BA in English from Hampton University.


Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, G31
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Public Hours
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8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays, Sundays & Federal Holidays