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The Kitchen Sisters and Frances McDormand Live at the Library of Congress September 15

The American Folklife Center is delighted to announce a live program at the Library of Congress:

Live! at the Library:
The Kitchen Sisters with Frances McDormand
Stories from the B Side of History

Presented by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

September 15, 2022, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Library of Congress, Coolidge Auditorium

This event is part of the Live! at the Library series and the Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture Series.

Admission is free, but attendees must secure tickets at this link.

“The Kitchen Sisters have done some of the best radio stories ever broadcast.”
–Ira Glass, This American Life

Two woman outdoors walk over green grass. One holds a camera, the other a recorder and a microphone.

The Kitchen Sisters, courtesy of the Kitchen Sisters.

Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva – the renowned radio producers and podcasters known as The Kitchen Sisters – reflect on their innovative careers as audio documentarians and storytellers in conversation with their friend and collaborator, Academy Award-winning actor Frances McDormand. This special “Live at the Library!” evening, presented by the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, celebrates the recent acquisition by the Library’s American Folklife Center of The Kitchen Sisters’ historically significant archive –some 7,000 hours of interviews, oral histories and field recordings along with photographs, notebooks, journals, and research materials.

During this live multimedia conversation in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium, Nelson and Silva will play stories, review their careers, discuss their contributions as documentarians and podcasting pioneers, tell some of their favorite stories, and take questions from the audience. They will be joined by their friend and frequent collaborator Frances McDormand, an actor and producer who has won four Academy Awards and numerous other awards and accolades.

For nearly four decades, The Kitchen Sisters have researched and produced hundreds of NPR stories, specials and podcasts documenting America’s diverse cultural history and contemporary cultural landscape. Recipients of a duPont-Columbia Award, two Peabody Awards, two Webby Awards and two James Beard Awards, their popular nationwide NPR series and PRX programs include Lost & Found Sound, The Sonic Memorial Project, and Hidden Kitchens – how communities come together through food (produced in collaboration with Jay Allison). Other Kitchen Sisters NPR series include The Hidden World of Girls, hosted by Tina Fey and The Keepers – stories of activist archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians. Their PRX/Radiotopia podcast, The Kitchen Sisters Present… has been featured in the New York Times.

Their book, Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes and More from NPR’s Kitchen Sisters was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Their Audie Award-winning Hidden Kitchens audiobook was narrated by Frances McDormand. McDormand has hosted five of their NPR Hidden Kitchen Specials including Hidden Kitchens: The Fellowship of Food; Hidden Kitchens: The Raw and The Cooked; and the James Beard Award-winning, Hidden Kitchens: War and Peace and Food. McDormand also hosted their PRX specials The Keepers: Archiving the Underground and Archive Fever.

Find out about the Live! at the Library series at this link.


Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in the Library’s Main Reading Room, September 1, 2020. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13.

Prior to her latest post she served, since 1993, as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. Hayden was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010 and was confirmed to that post by the Senate in June 2010. Prior to joining the Pratt Library, Hayden was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993. She was an assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991. Hayden was library services coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982 to 1987. She began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the young adult services coordinator from 1979 to 1982 and as a library associate and children’s librarian from 1973 to 1979.

Hayden was president of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services at the Pratt Library, which included an after-school center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling. Hayden received a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago.

The Kitchen Sisters

Davia Nelson

Davia Nelson speaks into a microphone.

Davia Nelson in 2010. Photo by Steve Rhodes, Shared to Flickr with a CC License.

In addition to her radio, podcast and documentary career Davia Nelson also co-wrote and co-produced the feature film Imaginary Crimes starring Harvey Keitel and was a feature film Casting Director for some 15 years working with Francis Ford Coppola, Barbet Schroeder, Wes Anderson, and Luis Valdez among others.

Davia co-directed and produced the PBS arts education documentary, Making Tutti: The Making of an Italian Doo Wop Children’s Musical, starring Father Guido Sarducci (aka Don Novello). Davia also does onstage interviews for The Telluride Film Festival, The Berlinale, The San Francisco Film Festival, City Arts and Lectures and other public events.

Along with Nikki Silva she co-created The Kitchen Sisters legendary “Interviewing, Recording and Podcasting Workshop” and is currently working on their second book, Show the Girls the Snakes: The 12 Commandments of Storytelling.



Nikki Silva

Head and shoulders portrait of Nikki Silva

Nikki Silva in 2012. Photo by Peter Jensen, Shared to Flickr with a CC License.

In addition to her radio career, Nikki Silva has worked as History Curator at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz (MAH) and as a freelance exhibit consultant creating projects for California State Parks, regional libraries, and museums in the cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, San Jose, San Leandro, and others.

She is the curator of over 40 exhibitions including: California Agricultural Labor History; A History of the Chinese in the Monterey Bay Region; California Indian Basket Makers, Historic and Contemporary; Nihon Bunka: The History of the Japanese in Pajaro Valley; the Story of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (the last of California’s early 20th century coastal amusement parks), and more. She has advised on public projects such as the renovation plans for the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, and the historic interpretation and permanent outdoor exhibition for the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz, CA.

Nikki lives with her family on a commune in La Selva Beach, CA.



Frances McDormand

Head and shoulders portrait of Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand. Courtesy of the Kitchen Sisters.

Frances McDormand has been honored to collaborate with The Kitchen Sisters on many of their podcasts and NPR specials over the past 15 years. Among her many accolades McDormand has received four Academy Awards, including three for Best Actress (Nomadland, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Fargo) and one for producing 2020’s Best Picture, Nomadland. She has earned three additional Oscar nominations for Mississippi Burning ̧ Almost Famous, and North Country. She was recently seen in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and as Lady Macbeth opposite Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen.

On stage, she received the Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in Good People directed by Daniel Sullivan. Other theatre credits include her Tony-nominated performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire; and a starring role in The Country Girl directed by Mike Nichols.

McDormand is a member of the Director’s Circle of The Wooster Group and has performed with the company in To You, The Birdie!, North Atlantic and Early Shaker Spirituals. With her company Hear/Say Productions, McDormand produced Every Secret Thing, Olive Kitteridge (nominated for thirteen Emmys and receiving eight of the awards including Outstanding Limited Series and Lead Actress in a Limited Series), Nomadland (receiving the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Performance by a Female Actor) and the soon-to-be-released Women Talking.

McDormand has appeared in some 40 films including being the Voice of God in the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. Her husband, Joel Coen, and her son, Pedro McCoen, felt this was very good casting.

Botkin Folklife Lectures Plus: Camille Moreddu on French American Traditions

This post features a lecture by Camille Moreddu, a cultural historian from France who is studying what she calls the “French Creole Corridor,” French-speaking communities, primarily in the Upper Midwest, which retained fascinating French music and song recorded by collectors in the 20th and 21st centuries. In her lecture. Moreddu reviews the repertoire found in these and related collections–from Great Lakes voyageurs’ songs and French-Canadian fiddle tunes to the ballads, winter ritual songs, and local songs of the Creole settlements of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. She also discusses methods and experiences of the different collectors; the histories of colonial era Francophone settlers as well as later immigrants from France, Belgium, and Canada; and how the French cultural presence was integrated into the narrative and historiography of the American frontier. We also conducted a brief question and answer session with Moreddu, and appended it to the lecture video itself. Moreddu kindly did her lecture twice–once in English and once in French–to make it as accessible as possible to people with an interest in these collections, and we did the Q & A in both languages too!

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