Since 1994, the AFS Archives and Libraries Section has awarded a prize honoring the late folklife archivist Brenda McCallum. Through this prize, the AFS Archives and Libraries Section seeks to promote works of excellence and innovation that further the cause of the preservation, organization, curation, or enhanced public access and use related to folklife archival collections. The Brenda McCallum Prize is awarded to an individual or institution for producing an exceptional work related to archival collections of folklife materials.
The West Virginia Folklife Collection housed at the West Virginia University Libraries is the recipient of the 2022 prize. The West Virginia Folklife Collection currently holds approximately 2,500 items generated by folklife fieldwork and programs conducted by the West Virginia Folklife Program since the program’s founding in 2015. The items included in the collection are unique primary source materials such as field-recorded interviews and other audio recordings, transcriptions, photo and video documentation, ephemera, and some material objects. These recordings document the vernacular culture, beliefs, occupational skills, and expressive culture of contemporary tradition bearers, folk and traditional artists, and cultural communities across West Virginia. While this institutional partnership began in 2016, West Virginia Folklife’s Founding Director Emily Hilliard and Interim Director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center at WVU Libraries Lori Hostuttler achieved success in providing digital access to the collection in 2021.
The digital collection holds interviews with participants of the West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship program like Jenny Bardwell and Susan Ray Brown describing the history and recipes of the Appalachian tradition of baking salt rising bread, and “West Virginia’s First Lady of Soul” Lady D describing the blues and Black gospel music scenes in the state. More highlights of the collection include documentation of the foodways and community celebrations of the Randolph County Swiss community of Helvetia, recordings of members of the Scotts Run Community Museum in Monongalia County, and Summers County collector Jim Costa’s collection of 18th and 19th century farm tools and objects of rural life.
Reviewers noted that the collection is a significant, and well-executed, undertaking. The benefit of this collection should have a far reaching impact on the scholarship about West Virginia folklife and the folklife of the broader region. The website will provide visibility to the diverse manuscript collections collected and created by the West Virginia Folklife Program.
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