The American Folklife Center is delighted to announce that Nicole “Nicki” Saylor has been appointed the fourth Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, effective May 22, 2022. She succeeds Betsy Peterson, who (as we recently announced) retired from federal service in March.
“Nicki brings a unique combination of expertise in AFC programs, collections, digital stewardship, and the application of contemporary research methodology, which will be invaluable in moving the American Folklife Center into the future. I look forward to working with her,” said Susan Vita, Acting Director of Special Collections.
Followers of the American Folklife Center will remember Nicki as the head, and then director, of the Archive of Folk Culture, which is AFC’s archive, from 2012 to 2021. During that time, she led our world-class team of librarians and archivists, curating the nation’s oldest and largest archive of ethnographic documentation, including folk songs, stories, and other creative expressions of people from diverse communities. The AFC’s archival collections include the earliest known field recordings, made in the 1890s on wax cylinder, as well as brand-new, born-digital collections such as the StoryCorps collection.
As director of the Archive of Folk Culture, Saylor had an active role in many high-profile AFC projects including the establishment of Mellon-funded Community Collection Grants to support contemporary cultural field research within diverse communities; the ongoing integration of Veterans History Project archives into the operations of the AFC archive; and many exciting AFC acquisitions. (Of course, she was also a blogger here at Folklife Today, and you can find some of her posts here!)
In 2021, Nicki left AFC to serve as Chief of the Library’s Digital Innovation Lab. At that time, she joined us for an interview, in which she spoke about some of the challenges and highlights of her time as Archive Director. In particular, Nicki spoke about the establishment of the Web Cultures Web Archive to preserve folklore on the web; the acquisition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Records collection; and working with Indigenous communities in creating the Ancestral Voices project. She also spoke about the hard work of of getting the bulk of AFC’s fieldwork documentation online, and the ongoing challenge of digitizing all of AFC’s analog collections.
Much of Nicki’s work at AFC was driven by a vision of what the archive could be at its 100th anniversary, which is in 2028. Nicki created this vision in collaboration with the archive staff early in her tenure here. It’s a vision we can now look forward to bringing to fruition, with Nicki back at the helm, this time as AFC’s chief.
You can read more about Nicki’s time at AFC in the interview we conducted about a year ago. You can read about her past accomplishments in the press release the Library crafted when she was first hired in 2012. And you can read the Library’s official statement on her recent hire in this most recent press release.
For now, we’ll give Nicki herself the last word:
The Center’s work of preserving and presenting stories, songs and living traditions from all over the world is more important than ever. The staff is so innovative and committed to the work. It’s a dream job and I am excited!