The 2018 World Records Symposium was hosted at Memorial Library (April 12–14) and this year’s theme was Sustaining Scandinavian Folk Music in the Upper Midwest. Organized by three campus folklorists—Marcus Cederström (Community Curator of Nordic-American Folklore, Dept. of German, Nordic, and Slavic), Nathan Gibson (Ethnic American Music Curator, Mills Music Library), and Anna Rue (Community Curator of Upper Midwestern Scandinavian Cultures, Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture), the symposium focused on the many ways in which Scandinavian folk music is being documented, preserved, revitalized, and reimagined, both in Scandinavia and in the US. Participants traveled from Finland, Sweden, and Norway, and many states in the Upper Midwest, and presented on a variety of preservation and scholarly activities including: digitizing historic songbooks and recordings, creatively performing, passing down stories and songs through apprenticeship programs, processing and archiving music collections, researching and recording musical repertoires, actively documenting current musicians, and more. There were two days of panel presentations—including a keynote presentation on fiddling traditions (and innovations) by Dr. Chris Goertzen, Professor of Musicology at the University of Southern Mississippi—a tour of the Mills Music Library highlighting the extensive Scandinavian music holdings and grant-related projects led by Gibson and Jeanette Casey, Head of Mills Music Library, two evening concerts featuring two National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows—Dwight Lamb (2017) and Paul Dahlin (1996) and many more accomplished folk musicians—as well as a final mid-blizzard community dance and performance by Foot-Notes (Decorah, IA) at Folklore Village in Dodgeville.
The World Records Symposium was sponsored by the Sustaining Scandinavian Folk Arts in the Upper Midwest project, the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, Mills Music Library, the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic, the Borghesi-Mellon Workshops, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Also in attendance and participating were representatives from the American Swedish Institute, American Scandinavian Foundation, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Finlandia University, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Minnesota State Arts Board, as well as numerous independent researchers and musicians. In total, the symposium events attracted nearly 500 participants and the resulting collaborations—several of which include the Mills Music Library—point towards a successful event, filled with thought-provoking presentations, inspired dialogues, and a heaping of fantastic Scandinavian folk music.