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Inaugural SPOHP Folklore and History in Virginia Team to Launch in October

Gainesville, FL—From October 21-26, 2014, UF history students will travel to eastern Virginia to discuss folklore, traditional crafts, and rural development with residents of Mathews and Middlesex Counties. The inaugural trip will feature two oral history open houses in Virginia, a methods workshop, and an interdisciplinary panel open to the public. Oral history research conducted during the week will build on a foundation of 45 interviews conducted on the Middle Peninsula by SPOHP graduate coordinator Jessica Taylor over the past two years.

The field research team headed to Virginia is comprised of past and present interns, staff members, graduate students and four undergraduate University Scholars. During the research trip, students will explore past and present oral traditions in eastern Virginia as well as economic challenges unique to the area. Mathews and Middlesex, once centers of production for ship captains working with deadrise fishing boats and dredge nets, have suffered economic decline in recent decades paralleling the erosion of the wider Chesapeake’s marine environment.

As the repository for archival collections of foundational American folklorists Stetson Kennedy and Zora Neale Hurston, the University of Florida is poised to expand the study of folklore and tradition. Conducting interviews with residents in Virginia will gives UF students a chance to see the places and lifeways around which local folklore grows and survives, with firsthand access to resources like vernacular architecture, boatbuilding, and local fishing technologies spanning three centuries, all in the setting of familiar national folklore like Jamestown’s settlement, Bacon’s Rebellion, and the Nat Turner slave revolt.

“A Festival of Oral History and Folklore,” one of the trip’s major initiatives, will take place over two days at the Mathews County Memorial Library. On October 22, an evening panel event at 5:30 will discuss “The Folk of the Tidewater: What Can We Learn From Eachother?” and an open house “Share Your Story” event to record memories and traditions will be held October 24 at 10:00 a.m.

The SPOHP research trip to Virginia is supported by the Fairfield Foundation, Mathews Historical Society, University of Florida Office of Research, Middlesex Historical Society, UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Deltaville Maritime Museum Turner Education Fund, UF Phi Alpha Theta, Milbauer Program in Southern History, Mr. Allen J. Krowe, and Mr. Gene Ruark.

For more information about these oral histories and the panel, please visit the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program’s website,, call the office at 352-392-7168, or e-mail SPOHP graduate coordinator Jessica Taylor .

Photo courtesy of Ronald Roland Hudgins.

Inaugural SPOHP Folklore and History in Virginia Team to Launch in October

Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP), University of Florida, September 12, 2014

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