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Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy Working Group

AFS approved the creation of a folklore and public policy working group focusing on historic preservation policy. Its co-chairs are Laurie Sommers (Laurie Sommers Consulting, LLC, Okemos, Michigan) and Michael Ann Williams (Western Kentucky University). Additional group members are Varick Chittenden (Registry of Very Special Places/Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, who replaced colleague Jill Breit, an early participant in our working group); Tom Carter (emeritus, University of Utah); Nancy Solomon (Long Island Traditions); John Vlach (George Washington University); Molly Garfinkel (Citylore’s Place Matters), and Jay Edwards (Louisiana State University).

Throughout 2011 and 2012 this working group sought to better integrate folklorists and the perspectives of our field within US historic preservation policy. Current trends in historic preservation—including inclusion of cultural landscapes and vernacular structures of all kinds, a commitment to diversity, and clarification of National Register Bulletin 38(Traditional Cultural Properties) — all provide meaningful opportunities for folklorists to join the dialogue and help frame policies of the future. [Click here to download the complete proposal.] Michael Ann Williams received additional funding at Western Kentucky University for graduate students to develop four model TCP nominations in collaboration with the New York State SHPO and Citylore’s Place Matters director, Molly Garfinkel. Of these, the nomination for Casita Rincón Criollo in the South Bronx is still in process as of 2013. The group also organized six cross-disciplinary forums and a pre-conference tour at the AFS 2012 national meeting in New Orleans, and held informal open meetings for networking and information exchange at AFS in 2012 and 2013.

The document "Integrating Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy: Toward a Richer Sense of Place” (Laurie Kay Sommers, with members of the AFS Working Group in Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy, 2013) summarizes the findings and recommendations of the working group. This policy paper—aimed primarily toward an audience of fellow folklorists—outlines key benchmarks in the history of folklore and historic preservation work in the United States, tactics for advocacy, lessons learned, and a blueprint for future action. We also developed a webography, bibliography, and selected case studies that illustrate various intersections between folklore and historic preservation. See the links below.

The working group has completed the work outlined in our original proposal to AFS. We welcome comments and suggestions for future initiatives from interested colleagues. For more information contact working group co-chairs Laurie Sommers ( or Michael Ann Williams (

Links to our resources and policy paper are found below:

Policy Paper: Integrating Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy: Toward a Richer Sense of Place, Laurie Kay Sommers

Webography of Folklore and Historic Preservation Sites, Laurie Kay Sommers and Varick Chittenden, compilers

Folklore, Cultural Landscapes, Historic Preservation, Cultural Resource Management: A Selected Bibliography, Michael Ann Williams and Laurie Kay Sommers, compilers

Case Studies in Folklore and Historic Preservation:

"That was Fun, Let’s Not Do It Again”—The Curious Legacy of the Grouse Creek Cultural Survey, Thomas Carter

West Meadow Beach Case Study, Nancy Solomon

Sunday Rock Case Study, Varick A. Chittenden

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grotto National Register Nomination

Bohemian Hall and Park: A Traditional Cultural Property in New York City, Molly Garfinkel

History Happens Here: Place Matters' Place Marking Projects in New York City, Molly Garfinkel

Sitka National Historical Park: Documenting Cultural Landscapes in a Southeastern Alaskan Setting, Arnold R. Alanen

Ravensford Oral History Project: Folklore and Mitigation, A (Relatively) Happy Case Study, Michael Ann Williams

The North Shore Cemetery Decoration Project: A Memoir and Reflections, Alan Jabbour

The Fishtown Model: An Integrated Approach to Historic Preservation and Folklore, Laurie Kay Sommers

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