Library of Congress Awards Second Round of More than $500,000 to Support Contemporary Cultural Field Research within Diverse Communities
The Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center is pleased to announce the second recipient cohort of the Community Collections Grant program. Launched by the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative, this series of grants is awarded to individuals and organizations working to document cultures and traditions of Black, Indigenous and communities of color historically underrepresented in the United States and in the Library’s collections.
“We are excited to support and preserve the important work of these Community Collecting grantees,” said Nicole Saylor, director of the American Folklife Center. “By documenting their cultural life to share with the Library of Congress and a broad public, they help tell a more expansive story about contemporary American culture and enrich the historical record.”
More than 80 applications from across the United States, including territories and protectorates, were submitted for review by the selection panel. Of the applicants and projects, a mix of nine individuals and organizations will receive up to $50,000 each to fund field research within Black, Indigenous, Hispanic or Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
PROJECT: Documenting, Archiving, Presenting and Fostering Trinidadian J’ouvert Traditions
LOCATION: New York City
DESCRIPTION: City Lore and third generation costume designer and cultural ambassador, Sandra Bell, will collaborate to document the panoply of events leading up to and including the annual Brooklyn J’ouvert Festival, along with its venerable history in New York City. The project will comprise about 20 digital video interviews with J'Ouvert organizers, costume makers, and musicians; and a traveling exhibit of J'ouvert visuals (still photos and video clips) and artifacts (costumes, steel drums, rhythm instruments, among others) opening in the City Lore Lower East Side Gallery. https://citylore.org/
PROJECT: Queens as Cultural Crossroads: Contemporary Cultural Documentation of Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza
LOCATION: New York City
DESCRIPTION: Our year-long intensive focus on Diversity Plaza and the surrounding neighborhood looks at documentation of a community gathering place as an act of resistance. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and tensions associated with impending gentrification, causing longtime Jackson Heights residents to feel the threat of cultural erasure in one of the community’s most precious places. The project will harness an interdisciplinary, ethnographic and transmedia approach to contemporary cultural field research that will ultimately contribute to a multivocal, functional, and fully accessible digital archive for use by the local community. Documentation will focus on the following types of community processes, which regularly take place in the Plaza: 1) Interfaith worship and celebration: 2) Community programming: 3) Foodways and commerce via local businesses: 4) Everyday creative use of the space for inter-community healing and conversation: and 5) Changing vernacular architecture. The initiative centers local voices as a means of people-powered place-keeping, with the intent to reinvigorate interest in maintaining the space by and for the local community as in years past. To that end, we will also produce a series of interactive community documentation workshops and storytelling programs as part of our fieldwork strategy. https://www.losherederos.org/
Makah Cultural & Research Center
PROJECT: Neah Bay’s Path to Wellness
DESCRIPTION: The Neah Bay Community, as with other communities across the nation, struggles with addiction problems and assorted health issues. The Makah Cultural and Research Center, Makah Tribal Council, and other community leaders strive to develop strategies and programs to enhance and create prevention programs to improve community health. This project will document activities and events related to “Neah Bay’s Path to Wellness” through video and audio recordings, textual records and still images. This project will document at least eight plant workshops, one deer processing and one fish processing workshop that will promote wellness through Makah cultural teachings to increase spiritual, physical, emotional, environmental and mental health. https://makahmuseum.com/
PROJECT: The Evolution of Folk Culture in the U.S. Virgin Islands Through the Prism of Historic Neighborhoods
LOCATION: U.S. Virgin Islands
DESCRIPTION: The project will trace continuity and change in the U.S. Virgin Islands from 1900 through 2023 with the examination, review and documentation of community specific cultural practices and value systems, traditions, observances, celebrations and belief systems such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death that serve as markers of cultural identity. The project team will identify and interview individuals and families about contemporary practices and examine the traditional and current uses of community spaces.
Philadelphia Folklore Project
PROJECT: Porch Places, Street Spaces: A Philadelphia Community Documentation Project
DESCRIPTION: This project is a multi-year initiative that documents and advocates for the deeply traditional and emergent creative ways Philadelphians utilize space on porches, stoops, roofs and streets to carry out cultural practices integral to everyday life. Emblematic of local folk character, these public/private intersections are sites of community connections, but recent regulatory policy and gentrification have been creating upheaval, changing the ways these spaces are navigated. For this phase of the project, we will look at the ways in which porches, side-lots, and public gardens are being used to pass on generational wisdom on agriculture and nurture community bonding activities. This community-driven project will train fieldworkers, engage in documentation, and create an interactive online platform that depicts how diverse local populations put folklore to work in shared spaces. https://folkloreproject.org/
Thai Community Development Center
PROJECT: Documenting the Thai American Experience in Los Angeles
LOCATION: Los Angeles
DESCRIPTION: The project will center on interviews with diverse members of the Thai community to share their journey and experiences in Los Angeles, providing context about how the Thai community in Los Angeles came to be and how Thai immigrants and Thai Americans navigate their lives. Documentation will also cover cultural events and activities important to the Thai community that instill Thai pride, honor Thai heritage and culture, promote cultural exchange, and acknowledge the role and decades-long history of the Thai community in Los Angeles. https://thaicdc.org/
University of Guam
PROJECT: Celebrating CHamoru Nobenas
DESCRIPTION: This project will document the nobena, a devotional prayer ritual based in Roman Catholicism but uniquely adapted and embraced by the indigenous CHamoru people of the Mariana Islands and Guam, and among diasporic CHamoru communities throughout the United States. Documentation will include rituals as well as interviews with participants that explain the nobena practice, its history, and its current use and significance, especially among the growing number of CHamorus who do not speak the language and continue to identify with the practice. Traditional songs will be audio recorded, nobena booklets will be updated to reflect recently adopted CHamoru orthographical standards, and English translations will be provided for better understanding. Ultimately, the project will highlight the celebration and the transmission of knowledge and language, especially through women, and provide a deeper understanding of contemporary CHamoru culture, language, and tradition.
University of Oklahoma
PROJECT: Continuing Comanche Culture: Culture as Making, Craft as Shared Story
DESCRIPTION: This project will document artistic creations by citizens of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, the Nʉmʉnʉʉ People. With a broad focus on art, from men’s ties to ledger art to beadwork, our team of Comanche and allied academics will conduct interviews with participants to provide deeper context about the cultural context of art and its meaning to the artists themselves. The project will also explore how different aspects and materials of an artwork celebrate, appropriate, and transcend relationships, identities, communities and culture. The interviews will provide insight into how craft encourages a piece of art to come into existence, grounded in an art work’s material reality, and how its materials participate to tell a human story in the final artistic creation.
University of Southern California
PROJECT: America’s first boats and their makers: Securing knowledge of the Kelp Highway and California’s enduring, sustainable Indigenous maritime traditions
DESCRIPTION: This project is led by Los Angeles Indigenous community members whose maritime coastal lifeways depended on human powered vessels, ti’ats (tee-ahtz), which people paddled while settling the Pacific coastline. This boat–making tradition thrived for millennia and then was suppressed until the last decade of the 20th century when an Indigenous group, The Ti’at Society, revived hand-crafted, sewn plank canoe-making. That pivotal cultural moment contributes to healing and growing culture confidence while building wider awareness of their lifeway focused on sustainable foods from coastal kelp forests. This project will build internal community capacity and pride by developing skills that support community creation of future archives. This foundational archival work secures a suppressed tradition that supported thriving communities, preserves a transformative moment in California history within our national institutions of memory, and cultivates intergenerational knowledge transfer about boatmaking as a central feature of past — and future — healthy, local food-gathering lifeways.
Remembering Black Dallas
PROJECT: If Tenth Street Could Talk
DESCRIPTION: If Tenth Street Could Talk follows descendants and residents as they work tirelessly to preserve the historic freedom colony's history and fight to have a voice in shaping the future of the community. By documenting contemporary community experiences and cultural activity, the project sheds light on key moments and community leaders past and present. This community-driven multimedia documentary and archival project centers the living memory and perspectives of Tenth Street residents and descendants through oral history interviews, GIS mapping, photography, digital storytelling, film, art, and genealogical research.
Grant recipients will work over the next 12 months to complete this range of engaging and meaningful research. Their work will ultimately be included in the Library’s various permanent collections.
Additional grant opportunities will be available across the Library in 2024 and future years. The next grant application period will open early summer 2023. To ensure you receive timely notifications, please subscribe to the Of the People blog - https://blogs.loc.gov/ofthepeople/.
About Of the People: Widening the Path
Launched in January 2021, Of the People: Widening the Path is a multiyear initiative to connect the Library more deeply with Black, Indigenous and communities of color historically underrepresented in the United States and in the Library’s collections. Funded through a gift from the Mellon Foundation, it provides new opportunities for more Americans to engage with the Library and add their perspectives to the Library’s collections. This work will expand the Library’s efforts to ensure that a diversity of experiences is reflected in our historical record and inform how we use those materials to understand our past.
About the Library
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