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Occupational Folklife on the Folklife Today Podcast

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Episode Nine of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.

Photograph of Captain Doug Mims in the wheelhouse on the M/V SAM HOUSTON, 2012-09-11. Mims has his hands on a wooden ship's wheel and beyond through the window are other ships in the channel.
Photograph of Captain Doug Mims in the wheelhouse on the M/V SAM HOUSTON, 2012-09-11. The photo is part of the Working the Port of Houston project, itself part of AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project Collection. Find the archival file of this photo and its related materials here.

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In this episode, John Fenn and I discuss occupational folklife and its place at the American Folklife Center, with special emphasis on the Center’s Occupational Folklife Project. As usual, I’ll try to connect you to all the audio, video, and pictures we discuss in the episode right here in this blog post. Here goes!

Possibly the most exciting part of the episode, if you like to see folklore and folklorists get recognition, is a set of remarks made by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about folklorist Archie Green, shortly after Green died in 2009. Those remarks come from this video of an AFC symposium; the late Dr. James H. Billington introduces the Speaker at 19:00 into the video.

Half-length portrait of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with an arm around folklorist Joe Wilson.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Folklorist Joe Wilson at the American Folklife Center’s “Legends and Legacies: A Celebration of Public Folklore.” The event included an Archie Green Memorial, a bestowal of the Living Legend Award on Joe Wilson, and a Concert Celebrating Joe Wilson produced by the NCTA. This photo was taken on September 10, 2009, immediately after Speaker Pelosi delivered the remarks that are included in the podcast. Photo by Stephen Winick. Find the event video here.

We open the episode with Billy Bragg’s performance of “Rock Island Line,” which for now is exclusive to the podcast. We hope to have that video online in the future. In discussing the song, I mention Billy’s July 2017 visit to the Library. At the time he gave a talk and sat down for a detailed interview with me and Mary Sue Twohy of Sirius XM Radio. You can watch both of those on video at this link.

We include portions of an interview between former AFC staff member David Taylor and his mentor in folklore, Archie Green, which for now are exclusive to the podcast. But the entire interview is in the archive, and you can see its catalog record here.

We interview the following people in this episode:

A series of three photos showing a young boy, Mel Ray Silverlake, playing with an elephant.
A series of three photos showing a young boy, Mel Ray Silverlake, playing with an elephant. The story of the photos is told by Kelly Revak in the podcast episode. Archival scans of the photos and their associated interview materials can be found here.

Kelly’s elephant photos above led me to play a portion of this interview with Barbara Miller Byrd, which includes more cute elephant photos and stories.

A mother and baby Asian elephant.
Mother and baby elephant at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma, November 19, 2011. This photo is associated with an interview with Barbara Miller Byrd conducted by Tanya Ducker Finchum and Juliana M. Nykolaiszyn, which is part of “The Big Top Show Goes On,” itself part of AFC’s Occupational Folklife Project. Find the archival materials here.

As a final note, you can find all the online materials from the Occupational Folklife Project at this link.

Enjoy the podcast!


  1. Happy birthday

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