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It is our common wealth - what Americans own as a nation, what we choose to honor and keep in the Smithsonian our national attic.  It's about what we know how to do, what we create and accomplish. It is the story of us.

Learn About The American Folklife Center
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4610 and contact the folks that work there.

Public Law 94-201 creating the American Folklife Center was passed by the 94th Congress on January 2, 1976. Established in 1976 by a Title 20 Education Act, the American Folklife Preservation Act (P.L. 94-201) is a small and versatile organization designed to operate in cooperation with other federal state and local agencies and organizations and to initiate independent programs using its own resources. It is mandated by Congress to engage in a broad range of educational and research activities that preserve, revitalize, and present America's rich and diverse cultural heritage -- a heritage associated with ethnic, regional, and occupational cultures. 

P.L. 94-201, The American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976 (20 USC 2101) which created the American Folklife Center, states the following: that the diversity inherent in American folklife has contributed greatly to the cultural richness of the Nation and has fostered a sense of individuality and identity among the American people; . . . [and] that it is in the interest of the general welfare of the Nation to preserve, support, revitalize, and disseminate American folklife traditions and arts. . . .

The term "American folklife" means the traditional expressive culture shared within the various groups in the United States: familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, regional; expressive culture includes a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, technical skill, language, literature, art, architecture, music, play, dance, drama, ritual, pageantry, handicraft; these expressions are mainly learned orally, by imitation, or in performance, and are generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction.

  • Living traditions passed down over time and through space.
  • Since most folklore is passed down through generations, it is closely connected to community history.
  • Shared by a group of people who have something in common: ethnicity, family,region, occupation, religion, nationality, age, gender, social class, social clubs, school, etc. Everyone belongs to various groups; therefore, everyone has folklore of some sort.
  • Learned informally by word of mouth, observation, and/or imitation.
  • Made up of conservative elements (motifs) that stay the same through many transmissions, but folklore also changes in transmission (variants). In other words, folk traditions have longevity, but are dynamic and adaptable.
  • Usually anonymous in origin

What is Folklore  

Folklore and Folklife are not about the long-ago and faraway but about the power of place and time and the dynamic creativity of traditional culture.

Folklore (in a broader sense, traditional and popular culture) is a group-orientated and tradition-based creation of groups or individuals reflecting the expectations of the community as an adequate expression of its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms include, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture and other arts. - UNESCO, 1985

What is a Culture Keeper

Public Folklore people are keepers of tradition / traditional arts and folk heritage. Folklore and folklife are not about the long-ago and faraway but about the power of place and time and the dynamic creativity of traditional culture.

A Culture Keeper, might be a traditional artist, who actively practices, passes on, and preserves the living cultural traditions of the cultural community to which s/he belongs and is then recognized and acknowledged as a culturekeeper by that group. Maybe this is YOU!

Cite the Educational CyberPlayGround Cite the TM TM TM
Public Folklore Projects Built By The Nation
Announcements of K12 Folklife Projects

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Summer training opportunities in folklife, folk arts, and oral history for K12 teachers, artists, and folklorists.

Everyone is invited to submit your announcement. We try to  reach everyone across the nation engaged in multiple sectors of education and folklore. We will review your submission.

Title of Workshop
Directors / Leaders Contact Info (email, phone)
Website URL
Privacy Policy URL
Non Profit or For Profit
Application Deadline
Does it offer Continuing Ed Credits
Brief Description / Mission Statement / Transcendent Purpose

announced by @folkculturekeep



Pennsylvania Center for Folklore Hosts 2018 Pennsylvania Folklore Symposium

The Pennsylvania Folklore Symposium, taking place May 17–19, 2018 at Penn State University, Harrisburg, will bring together academic and public sector folklorists and students from across the state and region in order to highlight the achievements and issues in the field of folklore, and open a discussion on how to better collaborate and coordinate between institutions and with artists, participants, and creators.  
The presentation sessions at this meeting are organized by the sponsoring institutions and there are no open panel sessions to apply for. However, all are welcome to attend and participate! The program will also include film screenings, a local tour, and public lectures.  

The registration deadline is March 15, 2018 to register, visit the registration website

For more information contact the Center staff at 

The preliminary program 
This meeting is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Center for Folklore, Folk Art PA/Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association.

Dr. Simon Bronner Prospect for Globalizing the Pennsylvanian Attitude Toward Folklore 

Selina Morales, Director of the Philadelphia Folklore Project
What are folk arts? Folk arts are names for the arts that are rooted in community traditions, in collective experiences. This means that while individuals make up folklore, new stories, songs, or sayings, these arts endure because they name the experiences of many people. When we share stories at the end of the day, recall a proverb that gets to the heart of a situation, or eat traditional foods at holidays, we are using our own folk arts.  
Calling these arts "folk" is a way of naming what is collective, community-based, or a peoples' tradition. It is a way of distinguishing arts that represent more than an individual point of view. The term is also used because, in this country, the creative expressions of ordinary people are not always seen as art, or as significant, or as part of a tradition. Because mainstream and elite notions of art generally marginalize the majority of world cultural and artistic traditions, the notion of "folk" art is a way of making equal room for all peoples' habits of expression and creativity.

Q&A with Lindsey Whissel Fenton (WPSU) and Dr. Simon Bronner (Penn State)
You Can't Say That  video producer Lindsey Whissel Fenton, won an Emmy in the education/schools – program/special category Folklore: Woven Together


The American Folklore Society's 129th Annual Meeting  

October 17-20, 2018
Buffalo Niagara County Convention Center, in Buffalo, New York
The theme for the meeting, on which presentations are encouraged but not required, is “No Illusions, No Exclusions.”

Independent Folklorists' Travel Stipend
contact the Selection Committee Chair, Joan Saverino

Timothy Lloyd, PhD | Senior Advisor for Partnerships
American Folklore Society  614/330-2078

Dorothy Noyes President The American Folklore Society 
Ohio State University - Professor, Departments of English and Comparative Studies; The Center for Folklore Studies,  The Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Arts Education Partnership @aep_arts

March 10 2018 Washington DC

How can the #Arts and #ArtsEd build civically engaged & empowered students? Attend to learn more in the Access and Agency in the Arts workshop w/ @BostonSchools @masscultural
This annual event convenes leaders from across the arts and education sectors for a day-long discussion exploring key policy topics impacting the arts in education. In addition to two timely plenary sessions – one addressing how arts education is faring under the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the other providing insight on how to use data to inform policy decisions – in-depth workshops focused on the priority areas of AEP’s 2020 Action Agenda will provide attendees with applicable tools and strategies for increasing access to the arts in education for all students.

Clifford Murphy murphyc (@)
Folk & Traditional Arts Director | Multidisciplinary Arts National Endowment for the Arts
400 7th Street SW | Washington DC 20506
p 202-682-5726 f 202-682-5669

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ART in K-12 --  Is The Key to Building a Strong Economy

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  • State and Regional Arts Organizations
  • Artistic Fields Funding Opportunity for State Arts Agencies & Regional Arts Organizations
  • Partners in Excellence - Best Practices
    The National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts is the service organization for a diverse constituency of non-profit, non-degree granting institutions which provide high quality instruction in the performing and visual arts to all persons, regardless of age, race, religion, aptitude or ability to pay. The mission of the Guild is to foster and promote broad access to high quality arts education designed to meet community needs. To that end it provides service, advocacy and leadership for community arts education organizations. The Guild currently represents 275 member institutions serving 300,000 children and adults.
  • JOBS: American Studies 2018
  • Database of Accredited Post Secondary Institutions and Programs
  • Folkstreams Films  portray diverse cultural groups and communities and they offer unique American voices for the study of film, art, music,  history, and media literacy for the classroom.
    Folklore and folklife are not about the long-ago and faraway but about the power of place and time and the dynamic creativity of traditional culture.
    Unlike feature films, documentaries are not fictionalized accounts but are filmmakers' attempts to capture the reality of some situation or group of people. Like feature films, documentaries are framed in a point of view. Folkstreams films try to capture what it is like to be an insider in local cultural groups from cowboys to urban Go-Go musicians. Many Folkstreams documentaries are made by folklorists, who study the myriad forms of traditional culture that are often invisible in mass media and history books but are essential to how we live our lives and formulate our worldview.

  • Folktale Project  @FolkTaleProject 
    A new folktale every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. From Ayerton to Grimm and from the US to Japan. 

  • Learn about Story Telling
    The Oral TradItion, Bards, Ballads, Folk music, Folk Tales, Gossip and Myth used in the classroom.

    Websites for Storytellers and Their Teachers Incorporating Oral History into K-12 Curricula by Mary Larson
    K-12 teachers throughout the United States have embraced oral history as a way of making classes more interesting, but they have largely approached this through two somewhat divergent means. By far the most dominant has been the effort to develop curricula that teach students how to conduct interviews. While there are some programs and organizations that have tried instead to incorporate existing oral histories into lessons, the latter is a much less utilized technique. In the first instance, relevant lesson plans are usually developed by individual teachers based on the intent of a class project, but in the second category, it has been more likely that curricula have been created by various oral history programs and archives and then provided to educators as a finished product that they can work into their current plans.

  • TELL US ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL using the STORYMAP to upload your video
    Help Build Your School To Be The School You Want It To Be.

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#NCFR Folklore Project


Promote Children's Playground Poetry, jump rope chants, clap pattern chants and songs. Use technology to save and promote their  own oral culture. Academics state the important role listening to nursery rhymes, and in many cases watching the accompanying actions, help in language acquisition.The ability to listen and discriminate between sounds in the language is an important predictor of children's later success in learning to read, and of course rhymes can play an important part in that. All cultures are hard-wired for the language of music.


Nursery Rhymes are the foundation for reading readiness.
Understand the connections between speech, music and reading.

  • COLLECT VIDEO OF CHILDREN'S PLAYGROUND CHANTS, PLAY PARTIES, AND CLAP PATTERN SONGS from the school yard, back yard, neighborhood playground, shopping mall, anywhere you see it.


    Tell your family's story  let Grandma sing Miss Mary Mack for you the way she used to do it !


USE THE STORYMAP to upload your video of children singing and chanting their playground songs from your school / playground / community!

  • Prepare find your subject
  • Capture your video 
  • Show us your school, playground, or street on the map 
  • Upload your video
  • Prepare your story
  • Add your audio text and captions in panels that you can place anywhere on the map.



Designed by Doug DeNatale 166 Hawthorne Street Malden, MA 02148
An information technologies provider for nonprofit organizations.
They build interactive data tools and information systems that help nonprofits understand and promote their work.

Interdisciplinary connections between Language, Music, Evolution, Reading.

Rhythmic patterns underlie the human language.  As language develops some cultures pay attention to the pitch of the word and the rhythm of the word. In all cultures, If it doesn't have the right rhythm nobody will understand.

Nursery Rhymes promote Play for Healthy Development and Reading Readiness.

USA Jump Rope

Hot Topics in Health and PE


Online Nursery Rhymes and the Oral Tradition


LORE AND LANGUAGE OF SCHOOL CHILDREN #Linguistics #child-originated culture #skip rope songs, #counting out rhymes, #parodies, #singing verses, #superstitions, #420

Learn about Language Evolution and Memetics   ORAL CULTURE  NURSERY RHYMES USE PLAY 

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't. 
EMOTIONS LOCK IN MEMORY A specific area of the brain's temporal lobe called the amygdala is the center of emotion in the brain and, it is becoming clear, a very strong tool for solidly hammering in a memory. When the amygdala detects emotion, it essentially boosts activity in areas of the brain that form memories" And that's how it makes a stronger memory and a more vivid memory."

DOMINO by Karen Ellis

Domino by Karen Ellis




West Indian Proverb:



CO OP PROJECT - Common Good Communities  

The Common Good system is all about community-centered economic democracy.
Economic democracy shifts power from big business and big government back to communities, where we know and care more. As a Common Good member, you buy things with your Common Good Card (from participating businesses), get an every-growing zero-interest line of credit, and occasionally move some money into or out of your account. 

We can't create US Dollars, but we can create Common Good Credits.

Alternate Banking -  Your Common Good Card generates funds for community projects and the common good every time you use it. You and other members decide together what to fund. 
info [at] • +1 413 628 1723
PO Box 21, Ashfield, MA 01330 USA


The Oral Tradition, Bards, Ballads, Folk music, Folk Tales, Gossip and Myth used in the classroom. Find Websites for Storytellers.

AGAIN YOU CAN USE THE STORYMAP to upload your video, tell us your story and show us how this is working for the common good.

Professional Story Tellers Who Work for a Living are Freelance Editors.
They will prepare a Story Telling Timeline and Tools.

- Background research, proposed questions, and biographical data form
- Unedited digital audio recording 
- You should have your own equipment capable of producing such documentation
[minimum 48/16 or 96/24 wav files ] 
- Abstract of main topics of interview [submitted as electronic file] 
- Field notes [submitted as electronic file] 
- Index of main topics and location [time stamp or time code] within interview [submitted as electronic file]

Science of Story Telling












Public Folklore are people who are keepers of tradition / traditional arts and folk heritage.

“Stealing Ideas”: Folklore and Education by Betty Belanus

Folklorists working in education often joke that we are great at stealing each other’s ideas, and we don’t mind a bit. “If you have a good idea, share it” is our guiding motto, and the AFS meetings are a great place to gather purloined ideas for one’s own use.

Betty Belarus  Pop Up Exhibition -  K12 Classroom / School Activity

Choose a theme and find the ways you can become involved as a formal or informal participant: Read more about Pop Ups 

The idea is simple:  bring an object (or a few) which follows a theme and be prepared to tell the story of that object to your audience and start a conversation around the story. 

Opening Doors, Opening Dialogues:  Sharing Cultural Knowledge and Memories from Homelands

What happens when one must leave a "homeland" and establish a new one?
Whether moving to a new town or a new country, or making a life move (such as changing career paths), how do the artifacts that we take with us, whether tangible or intangible, help us hold on to important cultural knowledge and memories, in order to share them with new friends and neighbors while creating a new identity in a new (literal or figurative) place?  
This Pop Up Exhibit invites participants and visitors to *open doors* (inviting visitors into the shared space of the small exhibit displays of objects, images and text) and *open dialogues* (using the displays as a means to explore together how cultural knowledge and memories can define and recreate homelands).










2018 'We Shall Overcome' Ruled Public Domain In Copyright Settlement! 

The music publishers, who collected well over a million dollars in royalties from the copyright, owe attorney's fees and court costs.

union members











PETE SEEGER: "It was known among the food and tobacco workers, mainly Negro union members. And I heard them singing it in 1947."




















It's not how pretty a song is but what good a song does ~ Woody Guthrie




















Language Arts / Literacy / Linguistics / Dialect Speakers / Reading

More about: Creole speakers Definitions - Dialect Speakers 
African American Vernacular, AAVE, Dialect, Creole, Patois, Pidgin, ESL, American Virgin Islands Creole, American Indian words in Louisiana, Dialect Speakers, Irish American Vernacular

"Pete Seeger sings "Kumbaya" and talks about the song's history in 1963.

"Kumbaya"? Why are these politicos invoking a sincere, melodic popular American folk song in a disparaging manner? And it's not just the Republicans. If this nation is not about everyone getting along, what is it about? And read about when singing "Kumbaya" become such a bad thing. 

Come by ya A Long Road from 'Come by Here to Kumbaya and About That Song You’ve Heard, Kumbaya. A Simple, Sincere Song  Like many political phrases these days, says Richard E. Vatz, a professor of political rhetoric at Towson State University, "Kumbaya" is used "irrespective of its derivation.

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American Folklore Society:  Folklore & Education Section Newsletter

Heritage studies at AFS 2012 by Gregory Hansen  
Heritage Studies is a new movement in academe that blends scholarship from folklore, anthropology, history, literary/cultural studies, museum studies, and other disciplines into an interdisciplinary field. This new approach focuses less on heritage as an element of the  past and more on heritage's relation to the present.

Smithsonian Folklife - The Staff working for our Nation's Attic!

The idea of cultural appropriation is not valid.

Culture is appropriation. That is all that culture is.

Appropriation from your neighbor, your mother, that man in the market.

Appropriation from those who came before, the builders, the remembered.

Civilization is open source.

Folklife Magazine


IUScholarWorks Journals is a service of the Indiana University Libraries to support open access journal publishing at Indiana University. The Libraries provide server space and support for Open Journal Systems (OJS), an open-source solution for managing editorial processes and online publication.

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Curatorial Conversations: Cultural Representation and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Edited by Olivia Cadaval, Sojin Kim, and Diana Baird N'Diaye. 2016.
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 352 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4968-0598-0 (hard cover).
2018 Reviewed by Maggie Holtzberg, Massachusetts Cultural Council 

In July 2017 the Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The book under review was conceived in anticipation of this anniversary. The ten-day annual Festival presents music, dance, craft, foodways, occupational skill, and ritual practice, always striving to recreate contexts in which these cultural traditions naturally occur. Visitors over the years have watched Kentucky tobacco being planted, timber framers at work, home cooks preparing ethnic food, Mariachi musicians performing alongside churros (cowboys), and railroad track-laborers singing work chants, with lining bars in hand.

Held in our nation's capital on the symbolically charged National Mall, the Festival has gained worldwide recognition as a model for community-based research, intercultural dialogue, cultural equity, and shared authority in staging living cultural heritage. Presented by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, it is common knowledge amongst folklorists and other cultural specialists that many working in the field of public folklore today had formative experiences working for the Festival. As co-editor and Smithsonian curator Diana N'Diaye remarks, "Many folklorists saw the Festival as the midwife for public folklore practice" (276).

Curatorial Conversations contributes to the growing body of critical writing about public folklore and the complexities of staged cultural representation. The hardbound book brings together fourteen essays written from the perspective of past and present festival curatorial staff. It is a fascinating look into the theory and practice of festival curation over the past half-century.

The book is organized into four parts: Early Vision and Transformations, Collaborations and Cultural Politics, The Poetics of Representation, and The Festival as Catalyst. The preface by C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell provides helpful background on the shifting roles of museums in society and the changing role of curators from being primarily caretakers of collections (conservation) to being catalysts for civic engagement (conversation).

After exploring Ralph Rinzler's founding vision for the Festival, Robert Baron's prologue touches on the multiple mediations that continue to take place in the planning, framing, staging, and interpretation of Festival programs. He commends the deep reflection and self-criticism by Smithsonian Folklife curatorial staff that has refined and developed its practice over decades as the staff learns from challenges and mistakes, such as learning to be less didactic and more engaging as presenters or how to successfully resist the demands of government or corporate partners in shaping programs.

Olivia Cadaval and Sojin Kim, the book's other co-editors who are also curators at the Center, provide the introduction for the essays that follow. Readers get a feel for what distinguishes the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, including the research-based nature of the curatorial work, which always includes community scholars or folklorists working in the local region, and the sensitivity surrounding the public exhibition or representation of culture. The book includes an impressive list of folklorists, historians, educators, and other cultural specialists who have contributed to this truly collaborative effort over so many years. Their combined expertise makes for good reading.

Jack Santino recounts Ralph Rinzler's guiding principle for the Festival--the cultural validation of often marginalized arts and artists--which sets the curatorial tone going forward. The early years of the Festival broke new ground by conducting field research to find the best possible representatives of a chosen traditional art, by juxtaposing several different cultural groups, and by staging more intimate performance settings. Santino acknowledges that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the Festival's positive impact on participants returning back to their home communities, but he notes that systematic research on this has yet to be done. In recounting the early days of the Festival and subsequent programs focusing on family and occupational folklore, Steve Zeitlin writes about the impact the Festival, with its focus on telling one's story, has had on American popular culture.

Dan Sheehy reflects on the values, purposes, and practices at play during his own curatorial work with Mexican musicians in the 1970s. He acknowledges the presenter's challenge of how to convey insider knowledge without falling prey to ethnic stereotypes. Noting the need to recruit more community members to explain cultural meaning, Sheehy reminds us of the Festival's most distinctive feature, which, in the words of former Center director Richard Kurin, is "its attempt to foreground the voices and tradition bearers as they demonstrate, discuss and present their culture" (59).

Frank Proshan offers two case studies from his work. The first focuses on what led to the 1972 Baltimore Greek program, which ended up including a four-hour Olymbos glendi (a highly structured ritual celebration), which drew Greek Americans from Baltimore and Washington. His recounting of the work that went into the 1987 Lao American program and the restaging of a Boun Bang Fai rocket festival is a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of curatorial work. (One of those judging the rocket competition was a Smithsonian curator from the National Air and Space Museum!)

Richard Kennedy addresses the challenges curators face working with highly charged political relations, where serious political differences and a history of conflict exist. His essay looks at some interpretive strategies that program teams developed to address these challenges in working with a variety of Festival programs, such as The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust (2002) and The Mekong River: Connecting Cultures (2007). Another take on this kind of challenge is offered by Cynthia Vidaurri, who writes about research for a Cuban program, which began in 1994 and is yet to be realized due to complicated relations between the United States and Cuba.

James Deutsch shares his experience working to present domestic government agencies (e.g., the US Forest Service, NASA, and the Peace Corps), recounting anecdotes in trying to avoid micromanaging by public relations staff and agency administrators. While promoting the active engagement of tradition bearers in the curatorial process, Olivia Cavadal relates how things can get messy when the Festival is actually under way. She describes some tense interactions between participant groups over the use of space on the Festival grounds and relates interesting examples of how cultural identity was contested and negotiated.

Marjorie Hunt begins her essay by sharing a wonderful story about master stonecarver Roger Morigi who had worked on the Washington National Cathedral. During a workshop, an audience member asked if he had worked on any other D.C. buildings. Morigi pointed to the larger-than-lifesize, carved female figure adorning the Commerce Building on Constitution Avenue, just off the Mall. He received a standing ovation. Hunt reminds us that how culture bearers are presented and interpreted is the key to success. Can they engage and interact with the public and with one another? Can they be heard?

Using three past Festival programs, Masters of the Building Arts (2001), Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions (2006), and One World, Many Voices (2013), she gives tangible examples of hands-on activities, signage, and pop-up presentations. Using his experiences working on the Bristol Sessions Country Music Program, Jeff Place provides useful information on how to scale back an ambitious festival program when resources are limited. Without having to build expensive infrastructure, planners conceived of a way to populate the area by creating a "parking lot" jam-session picking area with picnic tables. They also recreated a famous mural that was originally painted on a building close to where the 1927 Bristol recording sessions took place.

Betty Belanus explores what can be gained by curators putting themselves in the visitors' shoes. Using "Teaching for Understanding," a guide developed for classroom use that aims to help students reach deeper levels of understanding, Belanus and her colleagues take a critical look at the 2008 Bhutan Program. They develop a framework for describing and analyzing visitor engagement with the hope of improving future efforts in curatorial practice.

Amy Horowitz is intentionally inconclusive in her essay about her involvement on the Jerusalem Program, which like the Cuba Program, involved working in politically charged territory. It has been twenty-five years since the Jerusalem Program was conceived, postponed, and eventually reborn at Ohio State University, but it has yet to take place on the National Mall.

Using her experiences working on the 1997 African Immigrant Folklife and the 2013 Will to Adorn programs, Diana N'Diaye shows the value of deep community involvement in researching and developing festival programs. The training of youth and community-based groups to research their own expressive culture led them to organize their own folklore projects. It's a shining example of shared ownership of the curatorial role.

James Early's epilogue reflects back on the key players and early guiding principles of the Festival, noting that the multi-voiced volume is a window into how cultural heritage policy was formulated, diffused, and is continuing to evolve. He suggests that we scrutinize legacy terminology (living exhibition, curator) which grew out of a nineteenth-century institutional ethos. While his writing might be less accessible to the lay reader than the rest of the book, he asks good questions, such as, "What motivated so many prominent people in folklore and folklife festival work to be. . .passionately associated with cultural, social, and economic justice and public inclusion?" (321).

The book is rich with thoughtful reflections and honest self-criticisms; it also captures the magic that occurs when the Festival is at its best. Most useful are the essays that describe the process and interactions involved in attempts to share curatorial authority. We witness the evolution of festival curation from the early days of putting living culture on display to the recent era in which cultural practitioners form an integral part of the curatorial dialogue. That said, no one addresses how the Festival's early focus on individual states and regions in the United States has shifted toward representations of cultural groups from abroad. It would have been helpful to have included a chronological listing of all the Festival themes and programs, beginning with the very first in 1967. One minor complaint--a handful of the photos are not dated. The book also would have benefited from some color images.

I welcomed the opportunity to read (and review) a book devoted to conversations about festival curation, not only because of my own work in this area, but also because of what the book conveys about how far our field has come in the work of staging cultural representation beyond simple celebration. I came away with renewed respect for the groundbreaking work that has taken place over the past half-century by the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage staff, community scholars, and cultural participants.

I highly recommend this book for anyone involved in teaching, producing, or attending festivals that frame and represent traditional culture. The book encourages us to expand our thinking and dialogue about how cultural knowledge, competence, and artistry are best shared with the public (who are most likely cultural outsiders). It is also worth noting that the book was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution, when it received a 2017 Secretary's Research Prize presented by Secretary David J. Skorton and organized by the Smithsonian Congress of Scholars. The pan-institutional prize recognizes excellence in recent research by the Smithsonian Institution's employees.


Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics By Jean R. Freedman.
2017. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 368 pages. ISBN: 9780252040757 (hard cover).
Reviewed by Patrick Ryan

This comprehensive overview of Peggy Seeger's life also serves as an absorbing history of the folk music revival. Jean R. Freedman provides the usual pertinent as well as lesser-known details that make any successful biography, with information gleaned from her subject and Seeger's extended family, friends, and acquaintances. As a participant of the folk scene in her youth, Freedman began an acquaintanceship with Seeger that, renewed over years, grew into a close friendship (which Freedman acknowledges in her introduction). Given access to a wealth of resources through conversations, interviews, and countless private papers and public documents, the author successfully places the events and artistic oeuvre of a multifarious life in sociocultural and historical contexts. As a folklorist, Freedman manages enormous detail with a clarity and honesty that absorbs the reader. This is no hagiography, though the author clearly admires the artist and her work, nor is it an affectionate light-hearted laudatory summary of a life. It provides insight into folk music and the folk revival, which makes the publication of interest to any reader, whether a neophyte or veteran on the folk music scene, or a scholar of twentieth-century popular culture.

Freedman succeeds through prose as approachable and entertaining as Seeger's lyrics and informal, intimate performance style. The book is a page-turner, particularly (for me) the first half that presents Seeger's early life and development within the context of her family history, especially with regard to her parents' ground-breaking work, and then Seeger's initial years of independence as an undergraduate and then burgeoning performer and fieldworker on tour in post-war Europe. Freedman skillfully connects and contrasts Seeger's development as an artist with the practices of her parents and siblings, and also with a wide array of political and cultural movements--specifically in music, of course, but also in relation to education and other arts. She does so by exploring Seeger's and, when appropriate, the other Seegers' uses of folk music to explore or drive change in race relations, feminism, class struggles, and domestic and international politics over the decades.

The second half of the biography outlines Seeger's relationship with Ewan MacColl as well as their collaborative work and especially her individual professional practices, and also their numerous collaborations in the British folk, theatre, and media scenes. It also traces Seeger's developing political and feminist consciousness. This section is a proficient but packed report on a lot of life experiences, with slightly less discussion of causes and effects in social, cultural, or political terms compared with the first part of the book. It would not be fair to describe this part as a summary--Freedman does well in her continuing analysis of experiences contributing to Seeger's development as an individual and an artist, their impact on her repertoire and performance style, and, in turn, its influence on MacColl, other artists, and the development of the folk scene. I have to confess, having arrived late on the British scene myself, in a way similar to Freedman although half a decade after, I found this section enjoyable and disconcerting at the same time. Knowing some of the other actors in the British Folk Revival and their views of many events and ideas covered here, I was obliged to rethink my own understanding of the past, which is no bad thing. Freedman's is an accurate account, but like the Irish proverb there are two versions of every story and twelve versions of every song; and her version, and her reports of others' versions of events I witnessed or heard of, prompted a mix of memories and new questions regarding what I know of the work and experiences of my contemporaries on the folk scene.

Which reveals the strength and importance of this volume. Freedman could have ended with the twentieth chapter, where she summarizes Seeger's life, thoughts, and outputs in latter years. But instead she concludes with an essay responding to the question, "What Is a Folk Revival?" This final chapter echoes questions put, and partially answered, earlier by her analysis of Seeger's life and art. Questions such as: What is a folk song? What is tradition? What is authentic? But here she summarizes recent scholarly literature on folklore and the folk revival produced by both folklorists and cultural critics. Rather than resolve anything or provide definitive answers, her biography of Seeger becomes an object lesson letting us know that such questions must be regularly returned to, explored, and challenged. This is due to the depth and richness of any content we recognize as folk music or folklore, a repertoire continually added to and which can be seen in a new light in every iteration, whether in artistic or social performances, or in scholarship. As Freedman acutely observes, "The anxiety about cultures disappearing--the anxiety that created the concept of folk culture in the first place--is perhaps a false anxiety. The very factors that threatened to obliterate folk culture--growing capitalism and growing literacy--also fostered its preservation and its revival" (303). This could be an uncomfortable truth for those most active in combining folk arts and politics who believe that their work counters capitalism and champions--or romanticizes--the lesser educated or empowered.

Inherent contradiction and paradox in folklore performance and study is partly handled by strong publications such as this one, which joins recent biographies of mid-twentieth-century folk revival artists, and which will stand well amongst future biographies on other cultural actors of that time, which are surely yet to come.