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Portrait of singer Thea Hopkins on stage playing a guitar and singing into a microphone
The Hopkins took the Archive Challenge in 2022

New Guide Offers a Tool Kit for Staging an Archive Challenge

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Since 2015, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress has encouraged singers, musicians, and other artists to explore our archive get creative with what they find. Through our Archive Challenge events, artists find a song or piece of music they love, put their own stamp on it through arrangement or interpretation, learn it, and perform it. We began applying the model at the Folk Alliance International conference, but the Challenge can also work with a music venue, a concert series, a music festival, a university, an arts center, a podcast, a video blog, or any organization with the resources and knowhow to bring music to the stage, the airwaves, or the internet.

The Archive Challenge model is very flexible and dynamic, so it can lend itself to many different formats. The American Folklife Center has presented the Archive Challenge both independently and with partner organizations, and in both live and virtual or online forms. We feel the Archive Challenge serves our own institutional priorities by helping us make the archive accessible to artists and other researchers, as well as by publicizing and promoting the archive to the audiences reached by the artists. At the same time it serves the artists by creating performance and showcase opportunities.

Screenshot of the LibGuide
The opening page of our new guide, a tool kit for the Archive Challenge

So let’s say you work at a different archive, and would like to stage similar events to get the word out about your archival resources while also supporting artists and musicians? Good news! We’ve just created a research guide containing a tool kit for staging Archive Challenge events. Find the new guide at this link!

The guide includes:

  • An introduction with some general background on the challenge
  • A page of step-by-step instructions with a timeline
  • The text of some of the forms and documents we use in putting on such an event
  • A page describing the many forms the archive challenge has taken, with video examples
  • A bonus page explaining how artists can take the challenge with OUR archive

Along the way, you’ll find videos of many previous archive challenges: some done at Folk Alliance International, a major music industry conference, others as part of our concert series, and still others as part of the Daily Antidote of Song, a daily online singalong led by talented song leaders.

The new guide was written and designed by Jennifer Cutting, Allina Migoni, Doug Peach, and me. We’re hopeful that you’ll find it useful and interesting, and that it will help you stage Archive Challenge events using your own archive. If it does, please let us know of your events by dropping us a line at [email protected], or leaving a comment here on this blog. The same goes if you have feedback on the LibGuide itself; we’d love to hear from you!

Once again, here’s the link to the new guide!

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