History & Mission

Founded in 1984, the Vermont Folklife Center is a nationally-known folklife education organization that uses ethnography—study of cultural experience through interviewing, participation and observation—to strengthen the understanding of the cultural and social fabric of Vermont's diverse communities. The VFC's mission is to broaden, strengthen, and deepen our understanding of Vermont; to assure a repository for our collective cultural memory; and to strengthen communities by building connections among the diverse peoples of Vermont.

The realization of the Vermont Folklife Center’s organizational mission begins with fieldwork. Our team of folklorists conduct as many as 100 interviews per year, using ethnographic research methodologies that yield content for Web-based audio, radio broadcast, public presentations, documentary exhibits, and education programs and curricula, as well as building our archival collection with firsthand accounts that capture living memory and document both present and past experience.

These primary research materials and stories, as well as the resulting community partnerships are channeled into our four major areas of programmatic activity: Archive, Discovering Community Education Program, Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, and the Vision and Voice Gallery and Workspace.

Programs

VFC organizational activities and programming are developed from our extensive research with individuals and communities throughout the state of Vermont.  Our programs are largely shaped by this fieldwork, and the brief descriptions below detail these various programmatic outreach efforts:

Archive
VFC's state-of-the-art, climate-controlled archive houses more than 5,000 taped audio and video interviews and 20,000 historic and contemporary photographs, plus transcripts, field notes, family memoirs, and musical recordings.

In an ongoing effort to digitize our archive, a recent noteworthy project included 20 cassette tape recordings with Franco-American fiddlers in VT. Above: Image of Cassette

In an ongoing effort to digitize our archive, a recent noteworthy project included 20 cassette tape recordings with Franco-American fiddlers in VT. Above: Image of Cassette

Discovering Community Education Program 
Through our week-long Discovering Community Summer Institute we provide training and resources for educators and students to acquire and apply both ethnographic field research and digital media production skills. We also provide direct service instruction in K-16 classrooms; teacher training through presentations and workshops at conferences; and through the Cultural Sustainability Institute, a workshop series for the general public, librarians, and community historians.

Educators attending our Discovering Community Summer Institute interview Colin Davis of Shacksbury Cider to learn about his day-to-day operations. Photo credit: Justin Altman

Educators attending our Discovering Community Summer Institute interview Colin Davis of Shacksbury Cider to learn about his day-to-day operations. Photo credit: Justin Altman

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program
For 20 years, our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program has supported the cultural retention of Vermont’s traditional arts by providing support to master artists working with apprentices in their communities.  

In 2016, we supported roughly 20 traditional arts apprenticeships serving approximately 70 learners, including a Somali Bantu weaving project, pictured above. Photo credit: Ned Castle

In 2016, we supported roughly 20 traditional arts apprenticeships serving approximately 70 learners, including a Somali Bantu weaving project, pictured above. Photo credit: Ned Castle

Vision and Voice Gallery and Workspace
The Vision and Voice Gallery and Workspace provides a site for the planning, development and exhibition of new documentary work. The program is inclusive of ethnographers and documentary artists at every career stage and welcomes projects in all media.

Bob Hooker, our Vision & Voice Gallery installer, hangs portraits in the main gallery.

Bob Hooker, our Vision & Voice Gallery installer, hangs portraits in the main gallery.