Book, Events Celebrate Folklorist Alan Lomax's 1938 Field Trip Through Michigan
In 1938, the US Library of Congress’ Archive of American Folk-Song (today the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress) dispatched folklorist Alan Lomax to complete a folklife survey of the Great Lakes region. He returned almost three months later with a cache of 250 discs and 8 reels of film. These materials documented the diversity of ethnicity—Irish, Finnish, Serbian, Polish, German, Croatian, Canadian French, Hungarian, and more—in Michigan, as well as cultural expression among loggers and lake sailors.
A new multimedia e-book, a series of podcasts and a traveling exhibition will mark the 75th anniversary of the Lomax field expedition to Michigan.
“Michigan-I-O: Alan Lomax and the 1938 Library of Congress Folk-Song Expedition” will be published Nov. 1 by the Library of Congress in cooperation with Dust to Digital, a media company specializing in early sound recordings. The e-book, which will be available for the iPad, was written by Todd Harvey, curator of the Alan Lomax Collection in the Library of Congress.
This innovative e-publication celebrates a compelling narrative, illustrated with original items from the 1938 field trip, including audio and video clips, field notes and telegrams. Together, these materials provide fascinating insights into both the region that Lomax called “the most fertile source” of American folklore, and the man who would become the most famous 20th-century folklorist in America.
On Sept. 30, the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress will release the first in a series of podcasts featuring these recordings. These and subsequent additions throughout the year will be accessible at www.loc.gov/podcasts/.
Also making its debut on Sept. 30 is a traveling exhibition, “Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression.” Produced by the Michigan State University Museum and opening in Central Michigan University’s Park Library in Mount Pleasant, the exhibition tells the story of the Library of Congress effort to document traditional culture throughout the United States, with a special focus on the 1938 field trip to Michigan.
The exhibition will travel to five additional venues (dates to be announced) located in or near sites in Michigan, where Lomax made significant field recordings: the Beaver Island Community Center, the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, the Rogers City Community Theater, the St. Ignace Public Library and Northern Michigan University’s Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center in Marquette.
A special event, to be held in August 2014 at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, will celebrate the Lomax legacy.
For more information about the 75th anniversary celebration of the Lomax field trip, visit the American Folklife Center’s Michigan 1938 project web page, at www.loc.gov/folklife/lomax/michiganproject.html.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, publications, programs and exhibitions.
Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.
The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.
For more information, visit www.loc.gov/folklife/.