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First round of the Bartis Folklife Internships

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As the summer winds down, staff at the AFC are saying goodbyes to our inaugural Bartis Folklife interns: Trelani Duncan and Mackenzie Kwok. They’ve been with us since June, working primarily on the scriptwriting team for a podcast series that AFC will launch later this year, but also applying individual skills and interests to a range of other projects that support the AFC mission. Guest posts from them will follow in the coming weeks, offering a chance to reflect on their experiences here.

Image of 2018 Bartis Folklife Interns, Mackenzie Kwok and Trelani Duncan. They are seated in front of microphones in the Recording Lab at the Library of Congress.
Mackenzie Kwok (left) and Trelani Duncan (right) working the microphones in the Library of Congress Recording Lab. Photo by Steve Winick.

In this post, though, I want to celebrate a fantastic first round of the Bartis Folklife internship program. As I wrote in a previous post:

In summer 2018, the AFC at the Library of Congress will host its first two paid interns as part of a program established through a generous gift from the late AFC staff member Peter Bartis (1949 – 2017). These positions will introduce interns to the research collections at the AFC and the Library; help develop critical skills related to documentation, archival practice, and cultural heritage research and programs; build knowledge about the fields of folklore, ethnomusicology and oral history; and offer mentorship opportunities with senior folklorists and ethnomusicologists.

It’s safe to say that the program achieved success with all of those objectives. Trelani and Mackenzie embraced the full range of opportunities offered by the internship through field trips to sites such as The Library of Congress’s Packard Campus and the National Archives; conversations and meetings with professional folklorists, librarians, and other cultural workers; and, individual projects that immersed them in research with AFC collections. Their time at the Library gave them each insights into the dynamic realm of public folklore and cultural work, and added to their already robust skill sets. And, while the success of this first round drew significantly on the stellar interns themselves, I would be remiss not to extend credit to all AFC staff, as well as other Library staff and professional colleagues in the area. The collective guidance, training, and mentoring everyone provided enriched the internship program tremendously.

But, who are these two interns, and what are they up to next?

Image of Trelani Duncan standing with Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.
Trelani with Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. Photo used by permission of Trelani Duncan.

Trelani Duncan (MFA, 2016) hails from Louisiana, though she came to us from Savannah, GA, where she’s lived for the past decade. In addition to working with the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor as a volunteer, she’s taught oral history methods to high school students, conducted fieldwork with elders in her community, and published works of nonfiction and fiction drawing on generational cycles and family. Trelani will return to Savannah now that the internship is over, setting to work on creating her own podcast series from the oral history interviews she has conducted since 2016. She is able to fund the production with the support of a recently-awarded grant from the We Shall Overcome Fund at the Highlander Center! One of Trenlani’s favorite moments in her time at the AFC was learning about Agnes Vanderburg’s “outdoor school” that she started on the Flathead Reservation in 1971 (read about it here). As she read about what Agnes had done in the school, she realized how much her own work with youth and elders in Savannah “serves to blend the old and the new so that people work together to learn.”

Image of Mackenzie Kwok sitting at her staff work station in the Jefferson Building, working on the ESRI StoryMap platform.
Mackenzie at her desk up on Deck A in the Jefferson Building, building a StoryMap!

Mackenzie Kwok (BA, 2018) arrived at the AFC shortly after finishing her undergrad degree in American Studies and Folkore at UNC Chapel Hill. Through coursework she developed interests in foodways and community documentation, while also gathering experience in library practice as a student worker in the Wilson Library. Her position entailed responsibility for pulling research materials from the Southern Historical Collection and the Southern Folklife Collection—so working in the multiformat ethnographic collections at the AFC was nothing new! This fall, Mackenzie will being a Master’s program in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University. A highlight for Mackenzie at the AFC was picking up the phone and talking with West Virginia state folklorist, Emily Hilliard, about ramps and the elements of community that inform harvesting, cooking, and sharing the wild plant.

We’ve truly enjoyed hosting Trelani and Mackenzie as the first two Bartis Folklife interns, and look forward to following their trajectories as they continue to engage in public folklore and cultural heritage work. In addition to these two Bartis interns, AFC benefited extensively from work done by two more interns who worked on collection processing projects over the summer months: Annie Schweikert and Jesse Hocking. Look for blog posts soon detailing their contributions supporting the ongoing efforts to make AFC collections accessible. Finally, watch this space for announcements about the next round of Bartis internship applications for  summer 2019.

Image of Mackenzie Kwok and Trelani Duncan with Elizabeth Peterson, Director of the American Folklife Center.
Trelani and Mackenzie with Elizabeth Peterson, Director of the American Folklife Center.


  1. congratulations to these 2 accomplished young ladies and best luck in their futures. Reminded me of flirting with the humanities and research before turning to science…

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