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American Folklife Center Fellowships and Awards 2017

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the recipients of its fellowships and awards for 2017. This year, AFC awarded support to six 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


Archie Green wearing his Library of Congress Living Legend Award. Photo by Derek Green, August, 2007.

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 researchers and research teams in four different states.

Clare Luz, a gerontologist at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, received funding for her project “Personal Home Care Aides in Michigan.” Working with a team that includes other MSU faculty members, including the noted folklorist Marsha MacDowell and colleagues at the MSU Museum and Michigan Traditional Arts Program, Dr. Luz will document occupational histories of 30 personal care aides (PCAs) in central Michigan. As she noted in her proposal, “PCAs are overwhelmingly women of color with low socioeconomic status who historically have been marginalized and under-documented.” Her in-depth interviews will serve as the basis of future exhibits, seminars, and web venues designed to increase public knowledge and understanding of this significant and expanding sector of the American workforce.

Jess Lamar Reece Holler, an independent Ohio-based folklorist, received support for her project “Back-of-House: Kitchen Workers in Central Ohio.” Her fieldwork will document the oral histories of veteran, part-time, and upstart back-of-house food workers in Columbus’ kitchens, community markets, food trucks, and pop-up eateries. The contemporary emphasis on celebrity chefs and local suppliers has largely overlooked and failed to document kitchen and other restaurant workers, who are “at once food artisans and wage laborers” engaged in a skilled trade in which many work without the benefits, security, or collective organizing afforded other occupational groups.

Christopher Sims, a documentarian from Efland, North Carolina, received a Fellowship to record interviews with “Cultural Role-Players of Fort Polk, Louisiana.” For more than a decade, these “role-players”– who are both recent immigrants and long-term area residents—have evolved a unique occupational culture as they simulate Iraqi and Afghan villagers on the training grounds of a large US Army base. During month-long rotations, these workers staff more than a half-dozen villages as “extras” interacting with soon-to-be-deployed troops in a simulated but serious workscape.

Kim Stryker, an independent folklorist from Falls Church, Virginia, received a fellowship to document the occupational narratives of “Winery Workers in Virginia Vineyards.” Working with a team of researchers, she will conduct audio and video interviews with workers involved at various levels and sub-specialties within Virginia’s rapidly expanding wine industry. As she noted in her proposal, the Virginia wine industry is emblematic of the paradigm shift in small-scale agriculture and economic pressures forcing traditional famers to adapt to producing more value-added products and agritourism.

Blanton Owen Fund Awards


Folklorist Blanton Owen (1945-1998) edits and assigns numbers to his color slides prior to adding them to AFC’s Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project collection, 1977-1981 (AFC 1982/009). Photo by Margaret Counts, BR8-10-20228/26A.

The Blanton Owen fund, established in 1999 by family and friends of folklorist Blanton Owen in his memory, supports ethnographic field research and documentation in the United States. The fund is especially focused on work by young scholars and documentarians. This year the review panel selected one project for Owen award funding:

Dana David Gravot holds a Ph.D. in francophone studies and is a visiting scholar at the Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Dr. Gravot proposes to conduct fieldwork on herbal remedies and their medicinal uses with individuals in parishes surrounding Lafayette. This research will build on previous fieldwork Gravot conducted on vernacular healing practices in French Louisiana. The area surrounding Lafayette is home to a significant francophone population which continues to use traditional means of healing illness.

Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Awards


Folklorist Gerald E. Parsons, Jr. (1940-1995) coordinated reference in the Library’s Folklife Reading Room. He was a fieldworker with many interests and he was especially enthusiastic about all things related to waterfowl hunting. In this photo he poles a New Jersey skiff on the Patuxent River near Upper Marboro, Maryland, while former Folklife Center staffer Carl Fleischhauer attempts to record the conversations of two hunters, who are railbirding nearby. Gerry established the The Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund for Ethnography at the Library of Congress, named in honor of his parents. Photo by Paula Johnson, September 1984. (PFP84-BPJ-233888-2-25)

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 one project for Parsons Award funding:

Peter Szok is a professor in the Department of History at Texas Christian University. In his project “Insurgent Beauty: Native American Art in Modern Panama” he will review the Library’s collection of Panamanian periodicals in order to “produce a well-documented and pioneering monograph on Panama’s Native American art from 1968 to the present.” Studying the Library’s Panamanian newspapers and periodicals will help him track important historical and cultural influences on the Guna society’s artwork. This work will supplement his already extensive scholarship on Guna artwork as well as the oral histories he has already completed with contemporary Guna artists.

About the Center and the Library

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. For more information, visit the AFC homepage at loc.gov/folklife.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s website at loc.gov.

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