New beginnings for the Kentucky Folklife Program Archive

As many of you know the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP) has been a part of and located in the Kentucky Historical Society—for over two decades. The KFP’s main mission has been to identify, document, conserve, and present the Commonwealth’s diverse living traditions, generally referred to as folklife. Over a year ago I was hired as the Project Archivist to process and catalog the 20 years of KFP collections so they would be more accessible to researchers. For the last 12 months I have gone through over 90+ boxes of documentation including: surveys, reports, field notes, interview logs, photographs, audio, and video materials all pertaining to the diverse cultural traditions of our great Commonwealth of Kentucky. I have discovered some amazing research materials including collections relating to many aspects of Kentucky life: Ethnic diversity, food ways, musical traditions, craftsmanship, occupational folklore and much more. I’ve had a blast!
KFP archive boxed at KHS
KFP collection boxed and ready to move.

In 2011, it was decided to transition the Kentucky Folklife Program from the Kentucky Historical Society to Western Kentucky University (WKU), leading to plans for the KFP archives to follow through a transfer to the Manuscripts and Folklife Archives in the Kentucky Museum at WKU. WKU is a leading research institution in the study and practice of Folklore. This move is a healthy transition for not only the KFP but also the archival collections. Integrating the KFP archives into the already existing folklife collections held in the Manuscripts and Folklife Archive at WKU will make the Kentucky Museum home to the most extensive and dynamic archival collections of culture and folklife in the state of Kentucky. I am pleased to announce that at end of October the collection has been successfully transferred to the campus of WKU. The archives are in good hands.
KFP archive at WKU
Collection at WKU!!

The partnership between the Kentucky Historical Society and the staff at Western Kentucky University has been a crucial part in the success of this major move. Some key staff members that assisted us with the move were the new KFP Director, Brent Björkman, and his graduate assistant, Lilli Tichinin; Manuscripts and Folklife Archives Coordinator, Jonathan Jeffery along with co-workers, staff and students; and Department Head of Folk Studies and Anthropology, Dr. Michael Ann Williams. Not only were all of these folks willing to help the KHS staff during the move, but they were enthusiastic about the new transition. By consolidating the KFP program and archives at WKU, WKU folk studies students have immediate access to real world applications to the field through direct access to the KFP, and very accessible entry to a new wealth of materials for researchers.

This project has not only given me the opportunity to manage a collection and help hone my professional skills, but it has opened my eyes to the great culture and traditions that are being created and preserved in the state of Kentucky. This has been an amazing project and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work on it. I owe a lot of thanks to one of the main creators of the collections, former director of the KFP, and recent recipient of the American Folklore Society’s Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for his achievements in public folklore, Folklorist Bob Gates. Thank you Bob for all of your hard work, and for promoting Kentucky’s rich culture and traditions for the last two decades.

-Project Archivist, Heather Stone