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Dr. Elizabeth "Betsy" Peterson has been appointed Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC), effective January 16, 2012. Dr. Peterson succeeds Dr. Peggy A. Bulger, who retires from federal service on December 31, 2011. Since 2009 Peterson has been a consultant, specializing in folklife-related cultural planning, program planning and assessments, development, meeting facilitation, writing, and research. Her primary clients have included the American Folklore Society, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Association of Western States Folklorists, the Houston Arts Alliance and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In her consulting work for AFC, Peterson helped develop a national documentation project focusing on the transformation of work in 21st century American life. She brought together scholars and other stakeholders from folklore, oral history, anthropology, public policy, private philanthropy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) leading to a partnership agreement between the AFC and the IMLS. She co-directed a project team that coordinated and presented a 2010 symposium, Work and Transformation: Documenting American Workers at the Library of Congress.
Prior to her work as a consultant, Peterson was executive director (2004-2009) and program director (1998-2004) of the Fund for Folk Culture. In these positions, she advocated with private foundations to increase national visibility and resources for the folklore field, initiated working relationships with Grantmakers in the Arts, Inc., established a donor-advised fund, cultivated over 30 individual donors, and attracted corporate support for the fund. She encouraged cross-sector exchange to stimulate collaboration, networking and resource sharing on timely topics, such as support systems for immigrant and refugee artists and communities; holistic approaches to cultural conservation, environmental stewardship and sustainable development; and the impact of changing demographics on artistic production among artists, cultural activists, folklorists, funders, and policy researchers. She co-founded Preserving America's Cultural Traditions (PACT), a coalition of folklore nonprofits and federal agencies whose members meet annually for knowledge-sharing and collaborative planning. She initiated and secured support for three collaborative projects with the American Folklore Society (AFS) that provided professional development services for the field.
Among other previously-held positions, Peterson was a co-founder and Program Coordinator for Texas Folklife Resources and Director of the Traditional Arts Program at the New England Foundation for the Arts. As a consultant, her past clients have included The Wallace Foundation, the Southern Arts Federation, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Carnegie Hall, The Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, for whom she wrote, edited and compiled The Changing Faces of Tradition: A Report on the Folk and Traditional Arts in the United States, published in 1996.
"Dr. Peterson’s broad range of experience on folklife and public folklife administration, covering a period exceeding two decades, is uniquely suitable for the role of Director of the American Folklife Center," said Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services.
"The Board of Trustees is especially pleased that Dr. Peterson will be joining us to lead the American Folklife Center," added Dr. C. Kurt Dewhurst, Chairperson, Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center. "She is highly respected folklorist and experienced cultural administrator who will provide strong and effective leadership for the internationally recognized folkife center at the Library of Congress in the years ahead."
Dr. Peterson holds a BA in English from the University of Redlands and a PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She has written or edited a number of professional works, including handbooks, reports, white papers, and commissioned articles for such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and Animating Democracy.
"The Mickey Hart Collection" is a twenty-five-album series from the Grateful Dead drummer and world-music expert, who served on the AFC Board of Trustees for many years, and the non-profit label Smithsonian Folkways. "The Mickey Hart Collection" is drawn from "The World," a series Hart curated, which incorporates his solo projects, other artists’ productions, and re-releases of out-of-print titles. Six of the 25 albums form the "Endangered Music Project," a collaboration between Mickey Hart and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which presents recordings from musical traditions at risk. For more information, read the press release.
The Research Awards page contains application procedures and other information on AFC's awards programs.
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