AboutAFS Staff

Jessica Turner

A headshot of a woman smiling at the camera.

Executive Director
February 2018–present

As Executive Director of the American Folklore Society, Jessica A. Turner nurtures a broad network of folklorists working in universities, public institutions, and nonprofit organizations. She raises funds for and coordinates the Society’s initiatives to benefit the field and manages the work of the Society’s Executive Board. Turner works with national organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies, American Folklife Center, National Council for Traditional Arts, National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, National Humanities Alliance, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, UNESCO, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.  

Turner conducts fieldwork in Appalachia and China bridging academic and public folklore, ethnomusicology, museums, and heritage studies; she previously served as director of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia) where she helped secure decisive funding for the Smithsonian-affiliate Museum and led the museum’s interpretive design and development. She cultivated the Museum’s initiatives in collections and interpretation, helped to create partnerships with the Smithsonian and other institutions, and was a key advocate for the Museum’s work within its local community. Turner’s fieldwork-based projects have resulted in public programs including written works, exhibitions, media productions, workshops, festivals, presentations and a wide variety of community programs. Turner’s work centers around the exploration of creative expression, identity and place, and the multifaceted dimensions of heritage.  Turner received her PhD from Indiana University’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology in 2010 with a dissertation focused on ethnic minority performances and heritage tourism in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwestern China.   

Back to Staff