George Mason University

News at Mason

Folklore students present final projects at the Library of Congress

December 13, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

Violeta Palchik making her film on Uyghur cuisine. Photo provided.

When Arina Boyko came to George Mason University from Moscow to study creative writing, she probably couldn’t guess that she would get the opportunity to present her class project in the world’s largest library.​

“I was excited about the presentation in the Library of Congress,” said Boyko. “For me, as a girl who came to the U.S. from Moscow, to have your work shown at the place of which you have heard [about] so many times, that—putting it mildly—sounded unbelievable.”​

Boyko was one of six Mason students in a graduate folklore class who presented their digital storytelling final projects at the Library of Congress’s Mary Pickford Theater on Dec. 4. ​

The class, ENGH 681 Advanced Topics in Folklore Studies: Public Humanities, Digital Storytelling and Public Folklore, was led by Lisa Gilman, assistant professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, in her first semester of teaching at Mason. Students collaborated this semester with the Virginia Folklife Program, Maryland Traditions and the Sandy Spring Museum to produce digital stories about local folklife practitioners.​

“In addition to the skills the students learned in the class, this event provided students an opportunity to showcase their skills and network with professionals in the field—[it] gave folks outside of Mason an opportunity to see the great work happening on campus, and it is already inspiring conversations about future collaborations between the university and federal and state arts and cultural agencies in the region,” said Gilman.  ​

Boyko chose to do her project on the Persian Arts and Cultural Communities’Fall Festival at the Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland. Other student projects included the Bolivian Todos Santos celebration as explained by Julia Garcia, Uyghur cuisine at the Fairfax, Virginia, and Washington, D.C-based restaurant Eerkins, the beadwork of Nansemond artist Nikki Bass and the ceramic artistry of Soula Pefkaros.  

Graduate student Colleen Kearney Rich said this was the first time she has done fieldwork in a folklore class. Students in the class found a subject and did fieldwork in addition to learning technical skills in filming and editing video. Kearney Rich collaborated on a project on the Bolivian Day of the Dead ritual with the Virginia Folklife Program, which helped her make connections for her film. ​

“We have had a long and fruitful relationship with the Folklore Program at George Mason University, and providing an opportunity for these graduate students to share their dynamic work with a public audience aligns nicely with our congressionally mandated mission to ‘preserve and present’ folklife in all of its diversity,” said John Fenn, head of research and programs at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.