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Folklife Fieldwork & Oral History

Folklife fieldwork and oral history are research methods used to document community voices and expressive culture. In doing so, folklorists and oral historians seek to understand people’s lived experiences through ethical interviewing and collaborative documentation.

Interested in conducting your own oral histories or folklife fieldwork?

Are you curious about how to do your own documentation with community leaders, elders, folk and traditional artists, or cultural communities in a way that is ethical, collaborative, and responsive? Contact Folklorist Emily Hilliard at or 859-985-3309 in Special Collections and Archives to discuss your project idea and schedule an oral history or collaborative ethnography workshop for yourself, campus group, or class. I am happy to assist with issues of oral history and fieldwork documentation including project development, interviewing, audio equipment, recording, transcribing, community reciprocity, presenting your documentation, and more.   

Current Projects

In Spring and Summer 2024 I will be working with two Berea student researchers on the occupational folklife fieldwork project, Reading Local: Rural Public Librarians in Kentucky, documenting the work and expressive culture of rural librarians in Kentucky (primarily in Appalachian counties). The project will focus specifically on the role rural librarians serve as community resources, as well as how their workplacesrural public librariesare invaluable community hubs in remote rural areas. 

The collected narratives and stories will be preserved in Berea College’s Special Collections and Archives, where they will be available to the Kentucky Library Association, campus community, and general public.

In 2021-2022 I received an Archie Green Occupational Folklife Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for the project Rural Free Delivery: Mail Carriers in Central Appalachia, documenting the expressive culture of 25 rural mail carriers in Appalachian counties of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. The interviews, transcripts, photos, and videos are now part of the Library of Congress collection. Reading Local: Rural Public Librarians in Kentucky will draw upon and expand the scope of that project, as both initiatives document the value of public workers to rural communities in the Appalachian region. This project is supported by Berea College's Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects Program.

Upcoming Events


Profile Photo
Emily Hilliard
Berea, KY 40404


Office Location

Hutchins Library

Office Hours

  • Wednesday 1:30-3:30pm & Thursday 10am-noon

Class Schedule

  • Introduction to Folklore GST/APS286 (Mon/Wed/Fri: 10:40-11:50am)


  • Introduction to Folklore GST/APS 286


Emily Hilliard works as the Folklorist at Berea College. Previously, Hilliard worked as the Program Director for Folk and Traditional Arts at Mid Atlantic Arts and as the West Virginia State Folklorist and Founding Director of the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. She holds an M.A. in folklore from the University of North Carolina and a B.A. in English and French from the University of Michigan. Her book, Making Our Future: Visionary Folklore and Everyday Culture in Appalachia, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in November 2022, and was named a finalist for the 2022 Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College's Weatherford Award in nonfiction for books “best illuminating the challenges, personalities, and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.” She serves as the Film and Video Reviews Editor for the Journal of American Folklore. Learn more about her work at