Humanities Institute

Charlie Lockwood: The Theory and Practice of Archival Preservation of Texas Folklife

Charlie LockwoodCharlie Lockwood is the Executive Director at Texas Folklife, an Austin non-profit dedicated to preserving the culture of Texas. He was also a Community Fellow with the Humanities Institute in 2015. Mr. Lockwood recently shared with us the critical steps the Community Fellowship allows him to take on an important project for his organization. 

Founded in 1984, Texas Folklife is the National Endowment for the Arts state-designated Folk & Traditional Arts organization for Texas. Its mission is to engage in the preservation, presentation, celebration, and documentation of the folk arts, folklife, and cultural expressions found across the state. The organization has a strong 32-year history of documenting a wide variety of folk and traditional art practices across the state and has produced a large collection of analog recordings, photographic slides, field notes, and other ephemera. Recently, Texas Folklife embarked on a project to organize, catalog, digitize, and ultimately disseminate these rich archival holdings to the general public, scholars and researchers, and the communities from which they come.  

Thanks to the support provided by The Community Fellowship, Lockwood was able to conduct research on both the theoretical implications and practical considerations of this archival project. From the theoretical standpoint, he was able to research some recent efforts in the fields of Public Folklore, Ethnomusicology, and Anthropology (the intellectual roots of our organization), to reexamine the concept of the “archive” itself, reflect on what it means, and understand who the archive is ultimately for. He discovered several instances of archive repatriation projects and public access initiatives by researchers, public folklore organizations, and archival institutions. He also found examples of practical concerns for archival preservation projects written by archivists and public folklorists, which were very helpful models for consideration in Texas Folklife’s own archive initiative.   

Lockwood has continued the work on this project beyond the grant period in a number of ways. The research he conducted helped inform two conference presentations he did this fall, and allowed him to connect with archivists and scholars who have undertaken successful projects similar to his. He presented a paper on his progress at the annual American Folklore Society conference in October and connected with archivists and key individuals of the American Folklore Society’s National Folklore Archives Initiative (NFAI), which provides information about folklore archival repositories and collections across the United States. Texas Folklife is now planning to upload entries from Texas Folklife’s collection to the NFAI.  Additionally, Lockwood discussed his work on the archive project during a panel presentation at the Society for Ethnomusicology’s (SEM) pre-conference on “Public Sector Ethnomusicology” in November. He also participated in the SEM Archives Special Interest Group, where he met a variety of scholars and archivists, including some of those whose work he had referenced during his Community Fellowship research period.  He is now working with an intern from the University of Texas School of Information Sciences to implement some of the next phases of this project. Lockwood says that the Community Fellowship provided him with the mental space and time outside of usual daily non-profit operations to engage with important theoretical issues and take some practical first steps on Texas Folklife’s archival initiative.     

To learn more about Texas Folklife and their upcoming public events, please visit www.texasfolklife.org.  They also have an exhibit gallery, located at 1708 Houston St, Austin, TX 78756.  Gallery hours: 10am-6pm Mon-Fri and by appointment.  512-441-9255.  Texas Folklife is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible. Tax ID # 74-2360058.


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