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michigan traditions and traditional arts

Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression

"An outstanding portrayal of Michigan Heritage"

"Weaves together information and song."

"Shows the diversity of early Michigan.

"A glimpse of another time."

"Particular good at showing the context around Lomax's recordings."

Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression
The Michigan State University Museum has produced a traveling exhibit in celebration of the 75th anniversary of folklorist Alan Lomax's pioneering 1938 folk music collecting trip in Michigan, and the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2015. The traveling exhibition Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression, brings Alan Lomax's Michigan journey to life through words, song lyrics, photographs, and sound recordings. Twelve interpretive banners explore themes such as Alan Lomax and Michigan folksong collecting in the 1930s; the geography of Lomax's travels; the musical culture of lumberjacks, miners, and schoonermen (Great Lakes sailors); Michigan's ethnic diversity and its reflection in Lomax's field recordings; and the importance of the Lomax Michigan legacy today. Each panel contains a QR code that links to related sound recordings from the Alan Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Exhibition venues of libraries, museums, community centers, and performing arts centers may choose to book performers who perform music collected by Lomax and humanities scholars who speak about Lomax's contributions to the documentation and preservation of our state and national music heritage.

Alan Lomax's Michigan Legacy
In 1938, a young folk music collector named Alan Lomax - destined to become one of the legendary folklorists of the 20th century - came from Washington, DC to record Michigan's richly varied folk music traditions for the Archive of American Folk-Song at the Library of Congress. Michigan in the 1930s was experiencing a golden age of folksong collecting, as local folklorists mined the trove of ballads remembered by aging lumbermen and Great Lakes schoonermen. In addition to the ballads of these north woods singers, Lomax recorded a vibrant mix of ethnic music from Detroit to the Western Upper Peninsula. Additional resources that commemorate Lomax's Michigan legacy include multimedia publications, recordings, and online access to the Lomax Michigan collection.


No current bookings. This exhibit is available.

This exhibition has been shown at the following sites: Park Library, Central Michgan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI; Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, MI; Beaumier Heritage Center, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI; Van Pelt and Opie Library, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI; Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, MI; Sulo and Aileen Maki Library, Finlandia Univeristy, Hancock, MI; Beaver Island District Library, Beaver Island, MI; Presque Isle County Historical Museum, Rogers City, MI; St. Ignace Public Library, St. Ignace, MI; Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI; and Lorenzo Cultural Center, Macomb Community College, Clinton Twp., MI.

  Rental fee, 12 week period $1,000, plus shipping
  Number of pieces: 10 free standing vinyl banners with pull-up stands
  Running feet required: 500 feet (can be configured back to back, in a long hallway, or in groups)
  Insurance Value: $6,000
  Security requirement: Lockable, limited access display area; fire protection according to local ordinances
  Additional materials available: Press materials. Resource Summary of possible performers, scholars, and publication/digital materials.

These programs are made possible in part by a grant from Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; with additional support from the Michigan State University Museum and its the Great Lakes Traditions Endowment; the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress; the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin; the Association for Cultural Equality; and the Finlandia Foundation.

For more information:
Michigan Folksong Legacy homepage:

Library of Congress Michigan 1938 homepage:
http://www.loc.gov/folklife/lomax/michiganproject.html Curator, MSU Museum) and Patricia Shehan Campbell and with funding from the Association for Cultural Equity.

Lesson plans featuring Lomax's 1938 Michigan (and Wisconsin) recordings, are available online at www.culturalequity.org under “Teacher Resources" were produced by Dr. Laurie Sommers (Adjunct Curator, MSU Museum) and Patricia Shehan Campbell and with funding from the Association for Cultural Equity.

Beat and Form in Wedding Dance Music Grade Level: 3-5; 6-8; 9-12
Activity #1: Finding the Beat and Form in pieces written in 2/4 and 4/4
Activity #2: Finding the beat and form with triple meter tunes
Activity #3: Concertinas/Button Accordions
Activity #4: Understanding Context: A Photographic Scavenger Hunt
Activity #5: Collecting Wedding Music

Michigan Miner’s Blues Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Activity #1: Miner’s Blues and Videos of Place
Activity #2: Photo Discovery of Michigan Copper Miners
Activity #3: Alan Lomax’s Field Notes and an Iron Ore Miner’s Story

"The Bigler": Take a Musical Tour with a Great Lakes Schoonerman Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Activity #1: Songs of the Schoonermen
Activity #2: Chart the Voyage of "The Bigler"
Activity #3: Take a Musical Tour of Your Community

“Dis-moi pourquoi, une?” Children’s Cumulative Songs Grade Level: 3-5
Activity #1: Exploring the Video
Activity #2: “Dis-moi pourquoi, une?” (“Tell Me Why, One?”) A French-Canadian Children’s Song
Activity #3: Cumulative Songs
Activity #4: Generational Learning

Old World Meets New: Shepherd’s Flute from the Former Yugoslavia Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Activity #1: Introducing the Instrument
Activity #2: Close Intervals
Activity #3: Migrating Music
Activity #4: Ethnic Music in Your School, Community, Region, State

Collaborative Songwriting about Local Places Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12; C-U
Activity #1: Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn
Activity #2: Oral Transmission and Variation
Activity #3: Collaborative Songwriting

The Gallagher Boys—The Story of a Great Lakes Ballad Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Activity #1: Ballads as Story Songs
Activity #2: Ballads as Oral Poetry
Activity #3: Variation in Oral Tradition—Two Versions of the Gallagher Boys
Activity #4: Dominick Gallagher’s Story about the Story
Activity #5: What Really Happened to the Gallagher Boys—Writing Your Own Version
Activity #6: Relationship of Tune and Text

"Welfare Blues" Grade Level: 9-12, C/U
Activity #1: Southern Blues Comes North
Activity #2: "Welfare Blues" and Themes in Twentieth Century American History: Social Welfare in the 1930s
Activity #3: "Welfare Blues" and Themes in Twentieth Century American History: the Great Migration
Activity #4: Poetry of Hard Times
Activity #5: Chord Progressions
Activity #6: Musical Form
Activity #7: Blues Innovations

Lumberjack Music of Work and Play Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Activity #1: Introduction to Lumberjack Ballads and Songs
Activity #2: Musical Instruments of the Lumberjacks
Activity #3: Contexts for Lumberjack Music Making
Activity #4: Alphabet Songs
Activity #5: Lumberjack Ballads—Working Through the Seasons of the Year
Activity #6: Learn More about Lumberjack Life—“Johnny Carroll’s Camp”

Meet Joe Cloud, Ojibwe Fiddler Grade Level: 9-12
Activity #1: What Do You Know about American Indian Music?
Activity #2: Meet Fiddler Joe Cloud of Odanah, Wisconsin
Activity #3: The European Tradition: “Devil’s Dream”
Activity #4: The American Indian Tradition: Squaw Dance

Photo of Michigan Folksong Legacy title banner

Photo of Michigan Folksong Legacy banners on display




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