Q: What are community scholars?
A: Community scholars are experts in their regional culture and vital partners to Missouri Folk Arts staff. Smithsonian Folklife defined “community scholar” as an individual who has shown a significant contribution to the collection, preservation, and presentation of traditional culture in a community or region, without formal [academic] training in folklore or an allied field.
In our experience, community scholars come from many walks of life, represent a wide range of ages, and hail from all regions. The defining factor among this diverse group is their deep knowledge about local culture and traditions, plus their strong desire to sustain and share that knowledge in the present for the future.
Between 2010 and 2018, MFAP bolstered its advisory network through the Community Scholars Workshop Series in West Plains, St. Louis, Springfield, Ava, Hannibal, Mt. Vernon, Ste. Genevieve, Ironton, Columbia, Jefferson City, Fredericktown, and Doniphan. In those workshops, participants gained hands-on experience with digital recording equipment and fieldwork practices during field trips and interviews. In classroom sessions, visiting folklorists and local cultural experts taught a range of topics: interview techniques, archival storage, digital editing, project development, storytelling, and public presentation. Additionally, in 2020, Missouri Folk Arts and the American Folklore Society offered an online Remote Fieldworking webinar series. Those Missouri workshop alumni function today as presenters, blog writers, documentarians, and project partners.
Missouri Folk Arts is happy to have entered into partnership in fall of 2023 with Arkansas Folk & Traditional Arts (AFTA) to offer a no-charge, online training opportunity for Arkansans and Missourians who are interested in finding, documenting, and presenting community culture, folklife, and traditional arts.
The six session program launched on September 12, 2023 and will end on November 21, 2023 (every two weeks). During the program, participants will develop a project (large or small) to practice the skills learned. Participants are required to commit to the entire training series to receive a certificate.
We aim to prepare Community Scholars to feel confident in developing projects such as: oral history collections, exhibits large and small, web and digital content, cultural surveys/inventories on community traditions, and more.