Cover: Milking time at Pete Diehl’s farm,
2010. Photo courtesy of the author,
|FROM THE EDITOR|
From the Spring-Summer
2012 issue of Voices:
The American Folklife
Center at the Library of
Congress has been the
inspiration for my work
in public sector folklife
for some 30 years.
|What is Folklife?|
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of
us share and pass on to the next generation:
The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to
Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories
Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking
Our childhood games and rhymes
The way we celebrate life
– from birthing our babies to honoring our dead
The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
– religious, medical, magical, and social
Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions
The way we decorate our world
– from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies
The crafts we create by hand
– crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs
Patterns and traditions of work
– from factory to office cubicle
The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group
Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.
In the end ... we are all folk.
—American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
|In the mid-eighties, I began my formal
study of folklife under the guidance of
John Michael Vlach at George Washington
University. Academic conversations about
giants of the field, opposing theories, conflicting
definitions were a part of the excitement
of learning a new academic discipline.
Yet an essential, practical component
for shaping my own sense of folklife was
delving into the shelves of books, pamphlets,
and exhibit catalogs arranged by region
in the rooms of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress.
A cornucopia of human activity was found
on those shelves, all considered folklife.
Under-the-radar customs and beliefs. Creative
individuals from many groups. The
focus on the small details, the nuances of
culture. Not just old, but new and changing.
Grassroots. Diversity. Inclusiveness.|
Some 10 years later, in the mid-nineties,
AFC helped create my home base, the
Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
Crandall’s Board of Trustees was inspired
to take a bold step for a public library in
upstate New York. Seeing what was being
done by their federal equivalent in Washington,
DC, they could see local possibilities.
They hired staff, carved out space, created
a new department. Collecting the folklife
of our neighbors could be preserved and
studied in our own regional archives. Sharing
folklife through performance, workshop,
and display would be embraced by
neighbors and visitors alike, and enrich the
lives of our present and future public.
Today, I continue to draw strength from
the AFC. “What is Folklife?”—I love how
AFC staff answer the question, and leave
it open to each of us to add our own bit
of wisdom. It is inclusive, not narrow and
confining. It has elements of old and new.
It invites the individual to acknowledge the
culture of the group in its many permutations.
As the newest member of the current
Voices team, I am humbled by the folks
who, for almost 70 years, have made New
York Folklore (the Quarterly, the Journal and
now, Voices) a place-in-print for celebrating
our many diverse voices in New York
State. We will continue to honor this tradition,
and challenge you, the reader, to be
inspired. We invite you to search your own
life with AFC’s “What is Folklife?” as your
guide. We all belong to many groups with
their traditions, celebrations, crafts, and
stories. We encourage you to work with us
to share this folklife, to possibly inspire the
next generation. We welcome your submissions
with open arms. In the end... we are
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library
|Spring–Summer 2012, Volume 38:1–2|
Mary Beth Malmsheimer
Editorial Board: Varick Chittenden, Lydia Fish,
José Gomez-Davidson, Hanna Griff-Sleven,
Nancy Groce, Lee Haring, Bruce Jackson,
Christopher Mulé, Libby Tucker, Kay Turner,
Dan Ward, Steve Zeitlin
Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore
is published twice a year by the
New York Folklore Society, Inc.
Advertisers: To inquire, please call the NYFS
(518) 346-7008 or fax (518) 346-6617.
Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.
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