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Folklore and Museum Policy and Practice Working Group

The American Folklore Society's Folklore and Public Policy Working Group on Folklore and Museums has just published its white paper on folklore in museum policy and practice.

In 2013, the American Folklore Society’s Executive Board approved the creation of this working group, the third in an ongoing series of AFS folklore and public policy working groups. The group focused on the growing number of folklorists who are working in and with museums to foster greater presence of folklore in museum theory, practice, and policy. While folklorists have made major contributions to museum theory and practice, the working group undertook a focused initiative to (1) convene, (2) implement a series of professional activities, and (3) develop and issue reports and publications to examine areas where folklore scholars can contribute to public policy and museum policies.

The members of the working group are Marsha Bol, Carrie Hertz, and Suzy Seriff of the Museum of International Folk Art, C. Kurt Dewhurst of Michigan State University and the Michigan State University Museum, Jason Baird Jackson of Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures and Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Marsha MacDowell of the Michigan State University Museum, Charlie Seemann of the Western Folklife Center, and Dan Sheehy of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

During 2013-2015, the group:

1. Developed the white paper noted above.

2. Convened the working group with invited museum studies scholars to identify strategies and opportunities for involvement in museum policy and practice. Special attention was also given to including young emerging folklorists working in museums. This convening also sought to identify impediments or barriers for deeper participation in museum policy and practice.

3. Developed specific strategies to connect folklorists to the international movement to document and preserve intangible cultural heritage, and to connect this work to the tangible collections of museums. This included connecting with the International Sites of Historic Conscience and International Council of Museums.

4. Articulated an effective rationale for the contributions of folklore to museums.

5. Prepared at least one article for publication for the museum journal Curator or other leading museum studies journal/s that is drawn from the white paper.

6. Drafted policy recommendations to connect folklore in a more meaningful way to museum policy and practice.

7. Worked with AFS staff to post relevant resources in a special section of the AFS website.

8. Developed an electronic community of folklorists working in and with museums in order of foster a learning community to strengthen the communication and interaction among these curators, educators, administrators, digital asset managers, scholars, etc.

9. Created a series of panels/forums as the 2014 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Santa Fe—a host city with an outstanding group of museums where programs can be offered and hosted. Special tours and related programming would be developed to support this focus on policy and practice related to folklore and museums. Special attention would be given to issues such as the importance of connecting intangible cultural heritage policy to the tangible collection development, management, and access; new digital approached to collection development and use; new models for sharing authority with communities where fieldwork/documentation is conducted; the ethical policies of museums to enhance a more mutually beneficial sustained relationship; and the potential of folklorists to influence and impact public policy through their work with museums as safe sites of community dialogue and as responsive institutions for social action.

10. Identified other professional conferences and/or gatherings to present their work to national, state, and local audiences.

The complete proposal from the working group is available on this site.

Previous folklore and public policy working groups have focused on health policy and historic preservation policy.

The next deadline for applications for the support of a folklore and public policy working group will be December 15, 2015. See this page for more information.

Link here to the Working Group's Contribution Form:

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