Emily West Hartlerode is the state folklorist and director of Oregon Folklife Network, the designated partner of the Oregon Arts Commission, housed at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History on the University of Oregon campus. Emily’s first career in child therapy laid ten years of groundwork for earning a master’s degree in folklore. Now in her 12th year as a public folklorist, she mentors graduate students while creating community-driven public programs that celebrate Oregon’s many rich and diverse cultural heritages.
What are the most significant opportunities or challenges now facing AFS, and how as a member of the Executive Board would you respond to those opportunities or challenges?
As folklorists, we have the opportunity to actively battle some of the biggest problems we face as a global society today. As I listen to my colleagues and the communities I aim to serve, I see two challenges in the way of this opportunity.
Like many disciplines, our first challenge is to stay current and informed about best practices. Commitment to diversity, equity, access, decolonization, and inclusion is an iterative process that must be consistently renewed, informed, and improved. As a public folklorist housed at a university, I am tuned into community activism alongside cutting-edge scholarship, and institutional practices, all of which I will bring to the Board. I will advocate to dedicate AFS resources that support our members so that we, as a collective, are at the forefront of best practices.
Our second challenge is to communicate the value of what we do to target audiences that will help us sustain a vital field. As a collective, we have access to data in our records and archives, and impassioned messengers among our ranks–resources that tell the rich and critical story of our field. As a board member, I bring a network of university scholars and the next generation of folklore professionals to help articulate the value of our work to influence funders, policy-makers, professionals, and community members to support our field.