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Folklore and Historic Preservation

The Folklore and Historic Preservation Section of the American Folklore Society promotes folklorists’ involvement in historic preservation through research, advocacy, networking, and development of model projects.

The section is an outgrowth of the Working Group in Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy (2011-2019) that promoted a humanist approach to placemaking and preservation, focusing on the use and the meaning of historic places rather than solely on the building or structure. This approach will allow the section to make wider connections to related approaches, including the burgeoning Heritage Studies movement.

Current trends in historic preservation — including inclusion of cultural landscapes and vernacular structures of all kinds, a renewed and expanded commitment to diversity, increased interest in intangible cultural heritage and community engagement, and new applications of National Register Bulletin 38 (Traditional Cultural Properties) — all provide meaningful opportunities for folklorists to help frame policies of the future.

The section seeks to increase the visibility of folklorists and folkloristic perspectives, to encourage increased engagement by scholars and practitioners in the field, and to foster cross-disciplinary collaborations with colleagues in historic preservation, creative placemaking, cultural resource management, vernacular architecture studies, and heritage studies.Join our Google listserv hp_folk, where colleagues across disciplines can network.

For more information about folklore and historic preservation:

Fall 2019 issue of the Journal of American Folklore (Vol 132, No. 526), “The Place of Folklore in Historic Preservation.” This the best single source for information/projects on folklore and historic preservation.  If you are not a member of the American Folklore Society, the journal is available via JSTOR.

  • Introduction: The Place of Folklore in Historic Preservation (Laurie Kay Sommers)
  • Folklore and Historic Preservation: Past, Present, and Future (Laurie Kay Sommers)
  • Toward a Humanist Approach to Historic Preservation (Kingston Wm. Heath)
  • Place Matters; Rooting Conservation in Community  (Molly Garfinkel)
  • The Decatur Plan: Folklore, Historic Preservation, and the Black Experience in Gentrifying Spaces (David Rotenstein)
  • The Tarpon Springs Greektown Traditional Cultural District: The National Register Nomination and the Battle of the Sponge Docks (Tina Bucuvalas)

Links to the Working Group in Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy (2011-2019) resources and policy paper (note: bibliography and webography are not necessarily being updated): 

Contact section co-conveners Sydney Varajon and Beth King or founding co-conveners Gregory Hansen and Laurie Sommers at [email protected].

Get Involved

Sign in to the AFS Member Portal to join the section and ensure you’re receiving section communications. All of your section involvement can be managed under My Info.

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