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American Folklife Center Symposium Highlights American Workers

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller,
Mamie Bittner,

Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans
December 6-7, 2010
Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540

Washington, DC—The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) invite the public to Work and Transformation: Documenting Working Americans, a free two-day public symposium on the documentation of work, workers, and the culture of work in contemporary America. The symposium will take place at the Library of Congress on Monday, December 6 and Tuesday, December 7, 2010. The symposium features folklorists, librarians, ethnographers, labor historians, musicians, canal workers, policy makers, and journalists.

The United States is experiencing critical changes in work and workplace culture, as far-ranging as those of the Industrial Revolution. Throughout America, people are being challenged to reshape their relationship to work, their workplace skills and identity, and their place in occupational communities and civil society. Work and Transformation will foster dialogue about America's workforce in transition, and explore ways in which the value of work and of workers in contemporary America can be documented to enhance understanding.

Speakers at this multi-faceted event include Steven Greenhouse, labor and workplace reporter for the New York Times, who will deliver the keynote address; Marsha Semmel, Acting Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; Mary Boone, State Librarian of North Carolina; D’Vera Cohn, of the Pew Research Center; and Richard D’Abate, Executive Director of the Maine Historical Society. They will be joined by experts from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Labor College.

Work and Transformation highlights the ongoing ethnographic research undertaken by the American Folklife Center’s 2010 Archie Green Fellows. Folklorist Steve Zeitlin, Director of New York City’s City Lore, unveils his documentary research on the changes in work culture on the Erie Canal, accompanied by community scholar Captain Steve Wunder of the tugboat Seneca. Folklorists and radio producers Nick Spitzer and Maureen Loughran, from the award-winning radio series American Routes, will examine the role played by working musicians in Louisiana’s post-Katrina recovery. They are joined by community scholar Derrick Tabb from the famed Rebirth Brass Band of New Orleans. Finally, folklorist Robert McCarl, from Boise State University, details his on-going research with miners, environmentalists, and community members in Idaho’s Silver Valley.

The symposium also examines the important contributions made by libraries, museums, and historical societies to the changing American workscape. These local centers are evolving into dynamic community resource centers for adult education, assisting the public with the acquisition and application of "21st Century Skills."

Work and Transformation is free, but registration is recommended. For the complete schedule and to register online, visit

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

About the American Folklife Center
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. For more information on the Center, visit

About the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to the Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web site and via interactive exhibitions on