Sarah McCartt-Jackson on reconnaissance of cattle farms in Allen County.
Allen County Folklife and Oral History Project, 2011
I completed my internship as the Summer Assistant Project Coordinator for the Allen County Folklife and Oral History Project (ACFP). The ACFP is a major two-year ethnographic fieldwork project funded by a grant from the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation, and it builds upon work that began as a Newseum exhibit installation at Community Action of Southeast Kentucky, located in Scottsville, Kentucky. Through recorded interviews, photography, and videography, the project will document a broad range of historical and cultural themes, identifying the elements that make community life in Allen County unique. My job was to assist in jump-starting the project, coordinating and organizing day-to-day progress, and communicating with potential interviewees and resources as a central point of contact.
Working under the direction of Dr. Erika Brady during the summer of 2011, I helped coordinate aspects of the Advance Team (a group that included three other graduate students: Janice Crane, Kasey Chappell, and Rachel Hopkin). Our main tasks were publicity, information dissemination, production of a fieldworker resource manual, and the planning of a kick-off event for the Allen County community. Thus, we did a lot of "drive-arounds," or driving reconnaissance, to locate potential contacts for future in-depth fieldwork and interviews. Each student had particular areas of interest on which they focused (among a wide range of others), and my personal interests were on crafts, informal commerce, and agricultural aspects of Allen County.
We also contacted key individuals and organizations in the community to inform them of the project goals and scope and to garner additional contacts for the project. Moreover, I coordinated the Fieldworker Resource Manual as the project and fieldwork guide for incoming students and fieldworkers. This manual covers the project scope, potential interviewees sorted by theme, project protocols, and bibliographic and archival resources we gathered on Allen County. Finally, I assisted with the planning of the project's kick-off event. This event, held September 19 at the Community Action center, introduced our project (and the new project team of students) to the Allen County community.
The ACFP afforded me excellent experience in survey and field work. Not only did I get to meet wonderful people, I also learned what it meant to "get out there" and do folklore scholarship in a community. It was interesting to drive around, pull over, meet the residents, hear their stories, and begin to understand the variety of people, places, and events that make up Allen County. I look forward to continuing research on the project themes in my folk studies coursework at Western Kentucky University.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson takes notes on agricultural properties in Allen County.