A June 16th Library symposium entitled Rewriting America: Reconsidering the Federal Writers' Project 80 Years Later will bring attention to the enduring legacy and importance of the archival materials and mansucripts produced by a small army of unemployed writers, historians, librarians, teachers, and others for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) of the 1930s. The symposium will illustrate how this Library collection continues to inform and inspire public outreach and interdisciplinary scholarship in fields ranging from public and oral history to journalism to ethnic studies and folklore. Dr. Alessandro Portelli will deliver the keynote address, which will be livestreamed. Learn more about the in-person symposium and how to attend, as well as how to attend the livestreamed keynote address, in this blog post.
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is proud to announce the launch of the COVID-19 American History Project (CAHP). The multiyear initiative will document, archive, and make accessible Americans’ experiences with COVID-19, to strengthen understanding of American life during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to publishing a resource guide and encouraging Americans to share their stories with StoryCorps, AFC is now soliciting applications for an oral history award for researchers to document the experiences of frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award will provide up to $30,000 to each recipient. Applicants are asked to submit an initial concept paper by June 20 using the link in this blog post.
We're back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! In this episode for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, John Fenn and Steve Winick invite guests to talk about Asian collections in the American Folklife Center. Allina Migoni talks about the earliest known recordings of Korean music, playing segments of a lecture by Robert Provine and a song sung by Ahn Jeong-Sik. Sara Ludewig discusses the Linda LaMacchia collection, including recordings made of Tibetan singers in India. Steve discusses Asian and Pacific Island collections in the Homegrown concert series, and plays a song, a story, and a flute composition by Grammy-nominated Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal. Special theme music is provided by ukulele master Herb Ohta, Jr.
Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, a duo that has been at the forefront of old-time string music and other folk styles for decades. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performers, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections. Kate Brislin is a specialist in singing with others, a peerless blender. She was a founding member of the all female Any Old Time String Band in the 1970s. Tone and rhythm are paramount in the way she plays five-string banjo and guitar. Jody Stecher has been a soloist, a band member, an amateur folklorist, a record producer, an unusually enabling teacher, and an individualistic multi-instrumentalist and singer. In recent years he has been dreaming and composing new songs and tunes that sound old.
On April 27, 2023, the American Folklife Center (AFC) joined four other divisions at the Library of Congress to welcome a delegation from Hawai'i. Attendees included members of two Royal Families, as well as representatives of the 'Ionali Palace in Honolulu and the Daughters of Hawai'i, an organization founded to preserve Hawaiian language, culture, and collective memory. The delegation enjoyed presentations about the Library's Hawaiian collections, and four delegates sang a beautiful version of "Lili'uokalani's Prayer," a composition written by the last monarch and Queen of Hawai'i, Lili'uokalani, who ruled from 1891 to 1893. Read about the visit and about AFC's Hawaiian collections in this guest blog post by Douglas D. Peach.
We're continuing the Homegrown Plus series with Bennett Konesni, who performs work songs in the context of both farm work and maritime pursuits in his home state of Maine. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections. Bennett Konesni is a singer, farmer, musician and administrator, based where he grew up in midcoast Maine, and also at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, NY, where parts of his family have lived since 1652. He has been singing work songs while working since he was a teenager on schooners in Penobscot Bay. At Middlebury College, he wrote a thesis based on research into Zulu work song traditions done while studying abroad in South Africa and involving a workshop at the Middlebury College Farm in 2004—one of the first work song workshops on an American farm. After graduating, Bennett studied musical labor on three continents thanks to a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship: musical fishing in Ghana and Holland, singing and dancing farmers in Tanzania, and livestock songs in Mongolia and Switzerland. Since 2007, Bennett has been using work songs at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.
This post continues the story of Lillian Short, who sang the song "Robin Hood" for Vance Randolph in 1941. It reveals that Lillian's husband, Leonard Short, was a notorious bank robber who had died in a jailbreak attempt in 1935. It recounts several legends that have developed about Leonard Short, including that he had a network of tunnels under Galena, Missouri, to allow him to escape the law. Most interestingly, it shows that Leonard Short himself had the reputation of being a modern Ozark Robin Hood, raising the question of whether Lillian's singing about Robin Hood had any connection to her husband.
The following is a guest blog by Travis Bickford, supervisory liaison specialist for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP). Ten years ago, I read Tim O’Brien’s, “The Things They Carried.” Not for any burning desire; I had assigned it to a group of teenagers I was teaching from the south and west sides …
Welcome back to Homegrown Plus! We're continuing the series with Tenzin Choegyal, a master musician who is part of the global Tibetan diaspora, based in Australia. Like other blogs in the Homegrown Plus series, this one includes a concert video and a video interview with the featured performer, plus links and connections to Library of Congress collections. Tenzin Choegyal is a Tibetan/Australian artist, composer, activist, musical director and cultural ambassador. Born to a nomadic family in Tibet, he escaped the Chinese occupation with his family in the early 1970s and was raised in a Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India. There, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama actively encourages his people to preserve their culture, Tenzin first began to explore his musical talents. He feels a particular connection to the music of the high Himalayan plateau and, as a son of Tibetan nomads, he remains dedicated to preserving the musical traditions of his ancestors. His collaborative albums include The Last Dalai Lama? with Philip Glass and the 2021 Grammy-nominated Songs from the Bardo with Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith, which is a moving interpretation of the religious text popularly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.