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Michelle Stefano Joins AFC Staff

Head and shoulders portrait of Michelle Stefano.

AFC’s most recent Folklife Specialist, Michelle Stefano, in the Folklife Reading Room. Photo by Stephen Winick.

The American Folklife Center is pleased to welcome the latest addition to our staff, Michelle Stefano. Michelle joins the staff as a folklife specialist in the Research & Programs section of AFC.

Michelle brings a wealth of valuable experience to AFC. From 2011 to 2016, Michelle worked as a state folklorist for Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council, of which she was co-director in 2015 and 2016. From 2012 to 2016, she led the partnership between Maryland Traditions and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies teaching folklore, ethnography, and museum and heritage studies, and collaborating on cross-disciplinary projects focused on culture, community, and place. One long-term project, Mill Stories, sought to research and promote the stories and memories of former workers at the now-closed Sparrows Point Steel Mill (Dundalk, Baltimore County), grounding broader narratives of industrial boom and bust through their distinctive experiences (www.millstories.org). The project’s 2015 documentary film, Mill Stories: Remembering Sparrows Point Steel Mill received a 2016 Telly Award and has screened in several film festivals in the United States and Europe, in addition to numerous community-based screenings and discussion events.

Michelle earned her BA in art history from Brown University (2000) and her MA in international museum studies from Gothenburg University, Sweden (2004), after which she worked in several museums in Europe and the New York City region. In 2010, she earned her PhD in cultural heritage studies at the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle University (UK). Her research examined the concept, uses, and expressions of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ at international, national (UK), and local levels (Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, England), combining ethnographic, case study, and cultural policy research. Moreover, it investigated the potential of 12 museums in the North East of England to effectively safeguard living cultural traditions of the region (Northumbrian smallpipe playing and the Rapper dance), proposing alternative, community-based ways forward. She edited the 2016 special issue, Critical Heritage Work: Public Folklore in the US, of the International Journal of Heritage Studies; co-edited Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (Boydell & Brewer, 2012) with Peter Davis and Gerard Corsane; and co-edited The Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage (forthcoming) with Peter Davis. The last includes 38 contributions from ICH practitioners, researchers, and professionals from around the world.

Michelle will be spending a brief period getting acquainted with AFC’s collections, during which time we expect she will be contributing a guest blog or two to Folklife Today, so you’ll have an opportunity to hear from her soon.  In the meantime, we ask that you welcome her to the American Folklife Center!

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