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New Faces at AFC: Staff and Interns

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Over the past several months we’ve become quite familiar with on-boarding new people here at the Center, as a steady flow of incoming staff and interns have arrived since April. It’s an exciting time for us, and we wanted to share a bit of information about the five wonderful team members who have joined us. Below you’ll find details about two summer interns, two Folklife Specialists, and one Librarian in Residence!

Summer interns

We are continuing the paid internship program again this year with two exceptional individuals. Launched in 2018 the Folklife Internship program honors the legacy of our late colleague, Peter Bartis. Read more about the establishment of this program in this blog post, and know that the high bar set by the preceding intern cohorts has been met yet again! Deena and Joe rose to the top of a competitive applicant pool of over 120 others!

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Deena Owens, new Folklife Intern at the Center. Photo courtesy of Deena Owens.

Deena R. Owens is Folk Arts Assistant for Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts (AFTA) at the University of Arkansas Libraries where she provides digital outreach and general support for statewide programming. Additionally, Deena serves as a board member of Ozark Traditional Arts, an organization committed to providing Ozarks-related traditional arts programming in Northwest Arkansas. In 2019, while working in U of A Special Collections, Deena cross-trained with AFTA and subsequently co-founded the Arkansas Drag Community Oral History Project. The oral history project aims to connect community partners with a shared goal of preserving the memories and traditions of drag performers, promoters, and supporters. Most recently, Deena was project manager for the exhibit, “Ozark Home, Beyond the Frame,” which will be on display at the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History through December 31, 2023. A community scholar whose family has a long history in the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks, her research and work focuses on historically underrepresented voices in places of power and memory—in both collections and administration. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and is actively searching for her next academic adventure in folklore. She is thrilled for opportunity to work with staff this summer and hopes to learn more about the intersection of public programming and archives.

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Joe Johnson began his summer internship at AFC in late May. Photo courtesy of Joe Johnson.

Joe Zavaan Johnson (He/Him) is a multi-instrumentalist, arts educator, and Black music researcher. His musical practice, educational workshops, and research work in conversation with grassroots organizations towards goals of coalition building, community healing, and cultural reparations. His is artistically influenced by numerous genres and is currently a Black Banjo Fellow with the Oakland Public Conservatory. As an educator, he has taught workshops on the Black history of the banjo at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Old Town School, and the Midwest Society for Ethnomusicology. His research works towards putting the Black banjo reclamation movement into conversation with critical constructions of race, place, belonging, gender, and sexuality. This academic work has been presented at regional, national, and international conferences. Johnson is also pursuing a PhD in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University-Bloomington and lives with his cat, Newman.



Folklife Specialists

The Research and Programs team has grown by two full time staff members, who will help support the roster of public programs, researcher assistance, and digital outreach activity undertaken by the Center.

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Meg Nicholas is the newest addition to AFC’s Research and Programs staff. Photo courtesy of Meg Nicholas.

Meg Nicholas is a folklorist and storyteller of mixed Lenape and Welsh heritage whose professional work has encompassed family folklore, personal narrative, contemporary ghost lore and urban legends, and the material culture of American Indian artists and communities. Her work has been featured in Journal of New York Folklore and VoxPop, as well as meetings of the International Museum Theatre Alliance, the Mid-Atlantic Folklife Association, the American Folklore Society, and the Southern American Studies Association. Her exhibit, “Piscataway Connections,” is available for display from the Accokeek Foundation. Prior to joining the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, she served as a government contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S Department of Education, and the Administration for Native Americans. Meg holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (concentration in Public Sector Folklore) and a BA in history from George Mason University.

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Doug Peach stepped into his role as a Folklife Specialist at AFC in early April 2023. Photo courtesy of Doug Peach.

Douglas D. Peach (Doug) is an ethnomusicologist and public folklorist, who has most recently served as the Director of Folklife and Community Engagement at Sandy Spring Museum, leading the Regional Folklife Center for Montgomery County, MD, between 2020-2023. From 2014-2015, Peach worked as the South Carolina Folklife and Traditional Arts Program Director, at McKissick Museum (University of South Carolina) and the South Carolina Arts Commission. He is the co-author (with Henry Glassie and Clifford Murphy) of Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line, a two-CD/book published by Dust-to-Digital in 2014. Peach has conducted ethnographic research with musical communities in Sierra Leone and Argentina, as well as long-term research in collaboration with Gullah Geechee communities in coastal South Carolina since 2012. He is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University.


Librarian in Residence

Through a long-running program at LOC, AFC will host a Librarian in Residence from June until December to work on a high-level project anchored in questions about rights management for our archival collections.

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Andrea Decker comes to the AFC through the Librarian in Residence program. Her appointment extends until December 2023. Photo courtesy of Andrea Decker.

Andrea Decker is a storyteller, musician, and information specialist with a Master’s of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Riverside. Through her Fulbright-funded dissertation research, Andrea immersed herself in the vibrant world of dangdut koplo, touring and living alongside popular music singers in Indonesia. This experience exemplified her dedication to cultural understanding. Andrea’s recent endeavors include cataloging Indonesian and Malay-language titles as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress and processing and cataloging the Voices of Gay Rodeo Oral History project at the Autry Museum of the American West. She is also an enthusiastic photographer and singer and fosters connections through the arts. Andrea is excited to join the American Folklife Center, where she can continue her passion for preserving and sharing the rich tapestry of American cultural traditions.

Please join us in welcoming each of these stellar folks to the Center. All of us at AFC are excited to have them with us, and look forward to the significant contributions they will undoubtedly make in support of our mission!


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