The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the recipients of its fellowships and awards for 2016. This year, AFC awarded support to 8 researchers or teams. To find out how to apply for next year’s awards, please visit our research awards page at this link. Details about this year’s recipients are below.
Archie Green Fellowships
The Archie Green Fellowships were established to honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a pioneering folklorist who championed the establishment of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and who was awarded the Library’s Living Legend Award and honored in the Congressional Record [pdf]. Green documented and analyzed the culture and traditions of American workers and encouraged others to do the same. Archie Green Fellowships are designed to stimulate innovative research projects documenting occupational culture in contemporary America. This year, Archie Green Fellowships went to four teams of researchers in four different regions of the country.
Sarah Bryan, a folklorist in Durham, North Carolina, received funding for “Folklife of the Funeral Services Profession.” Her research will document the work of morticians and funeral directors in North and South Carolina. She will explore how, through their work, funeral workers engage with the funerary folklore and religious beliefs of diverse Carolina communities, including African American, Gullah, Scots-Irish, and more recently arrived immigrant groups. Interviewees will include directors of multigenerational funeral homes as well as more than 30 morticians throughout the Carolinas.
Laura Orleans, a folklorist and director of the recently opened New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center in New Bedford, Massachusetts, received support for “Workers on the New Bedford Waterfront.” She and her team will conduct a large ethnographic field project interviewing more than 60 shore-side workers involved in the local commercial fishing industry, with a particular emphasis on previously under-documented Central American and female workers. As the largest fishing port in New England, New Bedford is one of the few places where this once-regionally-dominant industry is still a robust source of income and employment. This project will focus on recording oral histories about rarely documented occupational skills, knowledge, and trades including: chandlery; navigational electronics and marine engine repairs; fish processing, packing, and trucking; operating fuel barges; working in gear shops; working in ice plants; lumping (off-loading fish and scallops); scallop bag manufacturing; seafood auctioneering; shipyard work; and marine welding.
Margaret Miles, a social services worker, writer, and documentarian in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will document workers in the emergency homeless services in three interrelated Midwestern urban centers: Bismarck, North Dakota, Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois. She will record interviews with overnight shelter advocates, meal and clothing center coordinators, street outreach workers, daytime drop-in supervisors, homeless student liaisons, housing case managers, and other workers. These professionals work to resolve housing issues, assist individuals with financial crises, employment, addiction, illness, or mental health concerns. Their work makes them “master-navigators of complex systems such as healthcare, social security, corrections, veterans benefits, and tenant-landlord law.”
Jaime Lopez and his colleagues at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies (HVAC) and Local Union #3, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Queens will undertake an oral history research project documenting contemporary electrical workers in metropolitan New York. The “Illuminating History” research team, which includes a trained electrician/documentarian, labor historians, archivists, and a folklorist, will research and document the occupational culture of IBEW electricians, who, “through manufacture, installation, and maintenance,” make critical contributions to the fabric of daily life in New York City.
Henry Reed Fund Awards
The American Folklife Center’s Henry Reed Fund was established in 2004 in honor of old-time fiddler Henry Reed with an initial gift from founding AFC director and fiddler Alan Jabbour. The fund provides small awards to support activities directly involving folk artists, especially when the activities reflect, draw upon, or strengthen the archival collections of the AFC. This year, Henry Reed Funds were awarded to two projects:
Emily Hilliard, State Folklorist at the West Virginia Humanities Council, was awarded funds for “West Virginia Folklife Presents Ballad Singer Phyllis Marks,” a public programming and documentation project highlighting the career and contributions of the respected octogenarian West Virginia traditional ballad singer Phyllis Marks.
Mélisande Gélinas-Fauteux received support for her research project “In the Footsteps of French Folksong.” The funds will enable Ms. Gélinas-Fauteux, one of Canada’s foremost young French-language folk singers, to travel to the Library of Congress to study field recordings of North American French-language folk songs in the AFC archive and to identify material for her upcoming CD “In the Footsteps of French Folksong.”
Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Awards
The Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons fund was founded by AFC reference librarian Gerry Parsons (1940-1995) in honor of his parents. It provides support to increase awareness of the ethnographic collections at the Library of Congress and to make the collections of primary ethnographic materials housed anywhere at the Library available to the needs and uses of individuals and non-governmental organizations. This year, the review panel selected two projects for Parsons Award funding:
Jillian Gould, a professor in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland, received support for her project “The Early Life and WPA Fieldwork of Herbert Halpert (1911-2000).” Funds will enable Gould to spent time at AFC examining archival records documenting Halpert’s early life and fieldwork for an intellectual biography of Halpert, who made important collections of folklore for several New Deal agencies, which now reside in AFC’s archive.
Jess Lamar Reece Holler and Jeffrey Paul Nagle, folklorists from the University of Pennsylvania, received funds for their project “Older Than You’d Think, and More Urgent: Legacies of Public Folklore and Cultural Conservation Methodology for the New Public Environmental Humanities.” The award will enable Holler and Nagle to visit the AFC to research the history, methodological design, reception, and curation of public folklife documentation and survey projects conducted on environmental cultures from 1970 to the present. They will also explore the emerging interdisciplinary field of public environmental humanities in order to better understand the rich influence of public folklore work on environmental humanities studies, and to inform best practices and methodologies in designing community-collaborative cultural documentation projects that respond to environmental change.