In 2004, the Alabama Folklife Association held the first Alabama Community Scholars Institute and then continued the program in 2006 and 2008. As a result of the training in fieldwork, all research conducted by the participants contributed to archival collections on Alabama's folk traditions.
To prepare for the future presentation of Alabama at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Alabama Folklife Association (AFA) obtained special grant funds to document and study the folkways of the state and contracted with independent researchers to complete additional fieldwork.
As a result of the Community Scholars program and the project to prepare for a trip to Washington D.C., the AFA has containers of fieldnotes, hundreds of hours of audio recordings, CDs filled with photographs, and some video-taped interviews. In order to present these collections to the public and provide additional programs to support local efforts towards the development of folk and traditional arts, the AFA obtained grant funds to create this traveling exhibit.
The Alabama Center for Traditional Culture (ACTC), a division of the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA), currently has four folklorists. Several of the displays include additional research based on the radio interviews, programs, and fieldwork of the staff of ACTC over the past thirty years. Alabama Public Television has documented the folk arts of the state and produced documentary films. APT has generously allowed for segments of these documentaries to be made available for viewing in the exhibit.
Sample Topics: Gumbo, chicken and goat stew, blues, Native American traditions, Muscle Shoals music, Mardi Gras, fishing techniques and cultural events, Sacred Harp singing, fiddle making, basket making, quilting, and storytelling.
Stations: Each station will have hands-on items, panels, and an I-Pad and television monitor allowing visitors to research and view the various traditions of a region at their own selection.
The exhibit is organized into regions of Alabama rather than specific topics, but the content is collections based. There are many, many folkways and artistic traditions that still need to be researched and documented. The AFA is dedicated to providing the necessary workshops to support local organizations and individuals in their efforts to pursue the collection and presentation of Alabama's folk and traditional arts for education, heritage tourism, and sustainability through the development of local cultural resources. As a partner program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA), the AFA encourages support for local artists and the programs, agencies, and institutions that ensure the arts are accessible to everyone. Many of the artists featured have also participated in the AFA Community Scholars program and the ASCA Folk Arts Apprenticeship program resulting in long-term relationships with the AFA and ASCA over many years.
Alabama in the Making and other important programs and projects of the AFA could not be made possible without the funding and support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Alabama Humanities Foundation. For links to these organizations, click on the logos at the top of the Home page.