Folklore and the Wisconsin Idea Recap

The folklorists were out in full force on campus from September 20–22, 2018, for the Folklore and the Wisconsin Idea conference in Madison. With folklorists from every corner of the country in attendance, the University of Wisconsin–Madison was brimming with stories, songs, and a whole lot of plaid-patterned shirts. For three days, we packed the Old Madison room on the 3rd floor of Memorial Union with friends, family, colleagues, and students both past and present.

We heard original field recordings, like these wonderful songs recorded by Jens Lund during his fieldwork: “The Iron Man” by Dale Miller, “A Viking Funeral” by Geno Leeche, “The Hooker and His Lady” by Woody Gifford, and Otto Oja’s “Ball of Mt. St. Helens Ape.” We were brought to tears by Claire Schmidt’s beautiful presentation on the importance of place and people in prison work here in Wisconsin, which drew on her work from If You Don’t Laugh You’ll Cry: The Occupational Humor of White Wisconsin Prison Workers. We laughed as Anne Pryor opened her presentation on curling wearing her club jacket and lead Janet Gilmore and Jim Leary in a traditional toast. And we were excited about future prospects for the digital presentation of folklore by graduate students like Colin Connors, Mirva Johnson, and Hilary Leathem. We watched as presenter after presenter, panel after panel, spoke to the power of public folklore, the importance it has had to their lives, to their families, to their communities. We watched as Janet Gilmore and Jim Leary were honored for the amazing work they have done, and continue to do, in the Upper Midwest and beyond.

Group photo of folklorists at Hoyt Park in Madison, Wisconsin.
Family, friends, and folklorists abound at the post-conference picnic at Hoyt Park. Photo by Nick Bastian.

After three days of intense programming, including eight panels, six plenary presentations, and one fantastically catered picnic, we’re excited to see what comes next. Thank you again to all who participated, from the audience members to the presenters to the many sponsors, especially, the Anonymous Fund; the American Indian Studies Program; the Borghesi-Mellon Workshops; the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures; the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic; the Folklore Program; the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, the Sustaining Scandinavian Folk Arts in the Upper Midwest project, and the University of Wisconsin Press. And finally, thanks to Jamie Yuenger of StoryKeep for so many wonderful photographs, of which a few are included below.

Jamie Yeunger and Jim Leary pose for a photograph
Jamie Yuenger and Jim Leary at Hoyt Park for the post-conference picnic. Photo courtesy of Jamie Yuenger.
Anna Rue and Janet Gilmore pose for a photograph at Hoyt Park.
Anna Rue and Janet Gilmore at Hoyt Park for the post-conference picnic. Photo courtesy of Jamie Yuenger.
Marcus Cederstrom and Tim Frandy at Hoyt Park
Conference co-organizers Marcus Cederström and Tim Frandy take a break at Hoyt Park. Photo courtesy of Jamie Yuenger.