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Review for Vermont Folklife Center, Middlebury, VT, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I'm an anthropologist with special interest in folk song.
It took a long time for Vermont to be recognized as a place where important folklore was to be found. When the first major collection of vernacular songs from Vermont’s Atwood family was published as part of the Schirmer “American Folk-Song” series, the major ballad scholars, such as Cecil Sharp, were still scouring southern Appalachia thinking that was where the old ways of singing had survived. And they had, but the 1919 book by Edith Sturgis and Robert Hughes showed that Vermont was also a vital place to look. This was shown in the 1930s when Helen Hartness Flanders took up her work.

The impressive value and the generosity of the Vermont Folklife Center was revealed to me when I started a project to explore the place of the Atwoods’ repertoire in American singing history. The workers at the VFC immediately supplied me with recordings made by Margaret MacArthur in the 1960s of the son of James Atwood, the central figure collected by Mrs. Sturgis. They gathered together and opened up all of the materials they had with anything related to the Atwoods or Sturgis’ and were gracious and helpful in enabling the research to continue. Thus far it has resulted in several descendants of Edith Sturgis becoming involved, searching family dwellings for papers, photographs and files connected to their grand-mother’s activities. One grand-daughter has reprinted the original 1919 book of the Atwoods repertoire and included a set “Poems” written by James Atwood about his friends and neighbors and documenting life in Dover, Vermont from about 1880 to 1920.

All of this is in addition to a CD recording of the Atwood songs, the several concerts presenting the songs and verse, and accompanied by projected photos and talk about the fascinating set of characters involved in preserving this invaluable Vermont lore.

My story, of course, covers only one example of the legacy of the Vermont Folklife Center in saving and restoring these irreplaceable gifts back to the people of Vermont. We are very fortunate to have such a talented and devoted crew of workers in charge of these crucial parts of Vermont’s heritage.

Anthony G. Barrand, Ph.D.
University Professor Emeritus and
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Boston University

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

2009 -2011

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Hire more people and put them in a larger building. It's a big task they have and are doing it well with their current resources.

Role:  Professional with expertise in this field & I'm a retire academic folklorist from Boston University.