Public folklore archiving team receives 2007 McCallum Prize

The Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures has received one of two awards for the 2007 Brenda McCallum Prize from the American Folklore Society’s Archives and Libraries Section. The award went to assistant professor Janet C. Gilmore (Department of Landscape Architecture and the Folklore Program) and her archiving team—Ruth Olson, Jim Leary, Joe Salmons, archivists Nicole Saylor and Karen Baumann, and a half-dozen graduate students.

They won the prize for their survey report on the region’s wealth of public folklore archival collections, and their creation of a growing repository of detailed online collection guides that provide project histories and virtually organize the scattered yet rich documentary record.

The prize honors exceptional work dealing with folklife archives or the collection, organization, and management of ethnographic materials. It has been awarded annually since 1994 for noteworthy products or documented activities that provide education, techniques, or services to those who collect, organize, and preserve folklife materials, either on the individual or institutional level.

The Survey of Public Folklore Collections in the Upper Midwest, 2005-2006 report, funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, resulted from a survey of key public folk arts and folklife collections identified in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Archivist Nicole Saylor visited repositories, inventoried collections, assessed conditions and accessibility, and prepared the draft report. Ruth Olson, Janet Gilmore, and Karen Baumann prepared the final publication, and a revised online version of the report will debut in 2008 at It provides a vital first step at the regional level toward identifying, evaluating, and encouraging preservation of these collections.

Since 2006, Janet Gilmore, Nicole Saylor, and Karen Baumann have overseen the publication of eighteen collection guides as “Public Folk Arts and Folklife Projects of the Upper Midwest” in the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections’ Archival Resources in Wisconsin: Descriptive Finding Aids ( Developed with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, these resources capture project histories and convey a comprehensive sense of the ethnographic documentation created from public folk arts projects conducted in the Upper Midwest from the 1970s on. Projects and documentation range from Woodland Indian traditional arts to Norwegian-American rosemaling, from duck decoy carving to commercial fishing skills, from Minnesota polka to Chicago blues and upland southern fiddling, from ghost storytelling to New Glarus Swiss parades, plays, and wrestling matches. The online guides virtually organize collections that often are scattered over several repositories, and make the material much more accessible to scholars and the general public.

A list of McCallum Prize recipients and brief statements of their research topics may be viewed at: