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Kentucky Folklife Program celebrates working lives of park rangers with new website

After more than two years of fieldwork and website preparation, Director of WKU’s Kentucky Museum and Kentucky Folklife Program Brent Björkman’s Ranger Lore project is accessible to the public.

A new website that showcases Ranger Lore: The Occupational Folklife of Parks is available at www.rangerlore.org

A new website that showcases Ranger Lore: The Occupational Folklife of Parks is available at www.rangerlore.org

In 2013, Björkman and Jon Kay, Director of Indiana University’s Traditional Arts Indiana, were awarded the Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This fellowship is awarded each year to select projects dedicated to occupational folklore research. Björkman and Kay’s project, Ranger Lore: The Occupational Folklife of Parks, focuses on the lives and work of national and state park rangers in Kentucky and Indiana.

While Kay worked with individuals within Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, Björkman turned his attention to Mammoth Cave National Park, where he conducted fieldwork with more than 30 current and former park employees. As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016, Björkman aimed to document important aspects of the park’s folklife: the practices, traditions and attitudes that make Mammoth Cave and the people who work there unique.

Björkman’s graduate assistant Hannah Davis built a website to showcase the work. It is now accessible at http://www.rangerlore.org/. The videos included represent a small portion of the information collected. For full interviews and more brief clips, visit the Ranger Lore YouTube channel as the KFP adds content over the course of the year.

“WKU has had a long academic history of working with Mammoth Cave National Park on both cultural and environmental-related topics,” Björkman said. “As member of the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology it has been professionally gratifying to be part of a university passionate about interpreting the culture of this park as a precious local resource that is globally known. While always in the public eye, park rangers as stewards and interpreters of our natural and cultural heritage are often invisible as a complex occupational group. I have always felt that the personal stories of their working lives have deserved closer consideration. The Archie Green Fellowship allowed me to explore more intimately these narratives.”

Full interviews, detailed interview information and verbatim transcripts from the project have been deposited at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Although this content is not yet available online, interested parties may contact the American Folklife Center for more information.

Contact: Brent Björkman, (270) 745-6261

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