Who Says This is A One-Person Show? (Part 2)

The second week of my online fundraising campaign comes to a close, and have I mentioned that in those two weeks we’ve managed to raise 50% of our overall goal? To date 50 generous funders have stepped forward to support the DVD production of Piecework: When We Were French. They are among the many people who have made this supposed “one-person show” possible.

Since this campaign began, I’ve been posting daily on Franco-American topics, and I’ve decided to dedicate one post each week to a person or organization who’s contributed to the play’s success. Today, I’d like to tell you about the Vermont Folklife Center.

The Vermont Folklife Center documents and preserves the cultural traditions of Vermont and the surrounding region. They stage exhibits, run an apprenticeship program in traditional arts, offer ethnography workshops, and maintain a vast archive of field recordings, including some 4,500 interviews that have been recorded over their nearly 30 year history. Now, I’ve probably made them sound like some kind of oral history army, but like many non-profit organizations, they are a lean and rugged operation with just a few staff members, dedicated to pursuing big ideas on a tight budget.

Among their archives is a wealth of Franco-American material, and when I began background research for Piecework: When We Were French, VFC not only gave me access to interviews they had done with Franco-Americans. They also lent me recording equipment to conduct my own series interviews, which are now part of their archives. I remember literally shivering as I stepped out of their offices, so inspired by their work and honored by their interest in mine. (Also, it was January, but I’m pretty sure those were shivers of inspiration.)

VCF does vital work, documenting and preserving local stories and traditions. I’m grateful that they’re doing it, and I hope you’ll visit their website to learn more about their current projects.

Writer Sherry Simon has compared the preservation of heritage to translation, saying that it is “the process through which objects and memories are selected, salvaged, preserved, and recontextualized for new viewers.” Like the making of a patchwork quilt, bits and pieces are gathered and sewn together to create something new. This is part of the idea behind Piecework: When We Were French: everyone contributes a small piece to the greater fabric. Please make your contribution today and get us one step closer to our goal!

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