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Benjamin A. Botkin Prize

Each year, the Public Programs Section of the American Folklore Society joins with the AFS Executive Board to award the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize of $500 to an individual for significant lifetime achievement in public folklore.

This prize is given in recognition of the work of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975). Eminent New Deal-era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938-1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1942 to 1945, Botkin has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

The review criteria are:

  • Engagement of a broad public audience in the materials of folklore
  • Impact on the field of public folklore: development of models, methodology, visibility, advocacy
  • Impact on communities/constituents and their traditional culture
  • Contributions to the body of materials of folklore/public folklore
  • Quality of artistry in presentation: writing, photography, stagecraft, etc.
  • Quality of scholarship
  • Impact on the discipline of folklore, its theories and methodology
  • Quality/adequacy of nomination package itself
  • Breadth of support, as evidenced by letters from community members and non-folklorists in addition to folklore colleagues

The next deadline for nominations is September 1, 2015. Please direct nominations, as well as your questions, to Botkin Prize Committee Chair Nancy Groce of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (ngro@loc.gov; 202/707-1744).

Nominations should include a letter of nomination; a one- or two-page biography or resume of the nominee; three to five letters of support from a broad range of people, including community members who have benefited from the nominee's work and people from outside the folklore field in addition to colleagues. Letters should specifically address the review criteria listed above and should explain how the nominee has taken folklore to a broad public audience.

All nomination letters and support material must be submitted in electronic format so they can be distributed easily and quickly to the committee members. Nominations remain active for three years. Previous nominators should contact Groce to ensure that their nominations are still in the pool, to arrange to send electronic versions of materials previously sent in hard copy, and to inquire about adding new or updated materials to those nominations.

Past Benjamin A. Botkin Prize Recipients:

Bess Lomax Hawes, folklore scholar, performer, and advocate, formerly of the National Endowment for the Arts (1994)

Archie Green, folklore scholar and advocate-at-large (1995)

Jane Beck, founder of the Vermont Folklife Center (1996)

Dan Sheehy formerly of the National Endowment for the Arts (and now of the Smithsonian Institution) and Joe Wilson of the National Council for the Traditional Arts (1997)

Jim Griffith, formerly of the Southwest Folklife Center at the University of Arizona (1998)

Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (1999)

Bobby Fulcher of the Tennessee State Parks (2000)

Hal Cannon of the Western Folklife Center (2001)

Robert Baron of the New York State Council for the Arts and Nick Spitzer of Tulane University (2002)

Alan Jabbour of Washington, DC, formerly of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (2003)

Jens Lund, Independent Folklorist, Olympia, Washington (2004)

James Leary of the University of Wisconsin (2005)

Elaine Thatcher, Independent Folklorist, Logan, Utah (2006)

Steve Zeitlin of City Lore, New York City (2007)

Yvonne Lockwood, formerly of the Michigan State University Museum (2008)

Elaine Eff, Independent Folklorist, Baltimore, Maryland (2009)

Carol Edison, Independent Folklorist, Salt Lake City, Utah (2010)

Peggy A. Bulger, formerly of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, and Amy Skillman, Independent Folklorist, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (2011)

Bob Gates, formerly of the Kentucky Folklife Program, and Ethel Raim of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (2012)

Paddy Bowman, Local Learning, Alexandria, Virginia, and Kay Turner of the Brooklyn Arts Council (2013)

Roby Cogswell, Tennessee Arts Commission (2014)



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American Folklore Society
Mershon Center, The Ohio State University, 1501 Neil Avenue, Columbus OH 43201-2602 USA
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