The American Folklore Society has been around for over a century. As one might imagine, members include folklorists who work in academia, researching, teaching, and publishing. But during the last 35 years, a growing number of folklorists work in the public sector as state folklorists, museum curators, archivists, radio hosts, and festival producers. What paved the way for strong work in public folklore? Key legislation, the development of programs at several federal cultural institutions, and the vision and perserverance of a few movers and shakers — people like Archie Green, Bess Lomax Hawes, Richard Kurin, Alan Jabbour, and Dan Sheehy. A film project that captures this watershed moment is now availabe online. US Public Folklore: The Watershed Years covers The Early Years and the Smithsonian Festival, Archie Green’s stories about lobbying for the Folklife Preservaton Act and the folk arts programs at the National Endowment for the Arts and the Library of Congress. The project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and produced by the Public Programs Section of American Folklore Society.
It is heartening news to learn that Bill Ivey has been appointed to lead the Obama transition team with responsibility for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Ivey has had a distinguished career as a folklorist. He currently directs the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and has served as director of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He is past president of the American Folklore Society, and chair of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1998 to 2001.