In 2010, I began a collaboration with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to create The Field School for Cultural Documentation through the Folklore Studies Program at George Mason University. The Field School offers professional training for students, community members and others who want to learn how to develop community documentation projects from the ground up. The field school emphasizes oral history collection, documentation of cultural artifacts and the establishment of archival collections as the foundation of our curriculum.
In 2011 and 2012, the Field School documented the neighborhoods of the Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia as part of our four-week summer program. The Field School has also documented Berkeley Springs and Morgan County, WV, in 2012 and a workplace documentary project at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013 and the Alexandria Waterfront in 2014.
The field school returned in Summer 2017 documenting Arlington Community Gardens In 2016, students documented community gardens along Four Mile Run and Ft. Barnard (in Douglas Park ). This summer we’re working with Lang Street gardeners in Arlington, Virginia.
In May 2018 the field school returned to West Virginia for a residential field school in collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program working with the state folklorist, Emily Hilliard.
In January 2020, the field school went abroad to Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland. After a hiatus with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Field School will return in June 2023 to document community gardens in DC national parks.
Students pictured above are hiking the Paw Paw Tunnel as part of the West Virginia Field School in 2012.