Music legend and songwriting luminary Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, and this year marks his centennial birthday. To celebrate, the Grammy Museum, the Guthrie family, Woody Guthrie Publications and the Woody Guthrie Archives have planned an international program of events, including tours, concerts, festivals, and conferences.
Ryan Anthony Donaldson of the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) recently had the chance to ask Tiffany Colannino a few questions about the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration. Tiffany is the Archivist with the Woody Guthrie Archives, currently located in Mount Kisco, New York, as well as the newly appointed ART Advocacy Chair.
ART: How did the centennial partnership between the GRAMMY Museum, Guthrie Family/Woody Guthrie Publications, and Woody Guthrie Archives come about?
TC: The centennial partnership between the GRAMMY Museum and the Woody Guthrie Archives has deep roots. For starters, we are both non-profit organizations committed to the history of American music. The Archives’ mission is to perpetuate Woody Guthrie’s life and legacy through the proactive preservation of his Archival material, whereas the GRAMMY Museum’s mission is to explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music. Although these missions differ, with the Archives’ focus on preservation and research, and the GRAMMY Museum on public programs and activities, our two organizations can work together to use these archival documents to bring Guthrie’s life to a broad audience.
But it’s more than just our missions that link us together: Robert Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum, is actually a former researcher at the Woody Guthrie Archives. Since 1990, Santelli has researched in the Archives in support of several Woody Guthrie book projects, including his 2012 work This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of the American Folk Song. He has maintained an active working relationship with Nora Guthrie – President of Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc and Director of the Woody Guthrie Archives – for over 20 years.
In a recent press release, Nora Guthrie comments on this partnership, remarking: “Because of its deep enthusiasm for Woody’s creative legacy as well as the underlying influence he’s had on so many musicians and songwriters in all genres of American music, the GRAMMY Museum is the obvious choice to help us celebrate the legacy that he created.”
The centennial celebrations will include concerts, conferences, and exhibits across the United States, Canada, and Europe. We’ve launched www.Woody100.com as a one-stop-shop for all of our North American events, and www.Woody100.de for our European events. In addition to the events we are planning with the GRAMMY Museum, these sites also list the Grassroots events that Guthrie fans and supporters are planning across the world, including lecture series, concerts, hootenannies, and exhibits. In addition, there are many new releases – books, films, and musical albums – including many based solely on material from the Woody Guthrie Archives, set to launch in 2012 to help celebrate Guthrie’s centennial, and perpetuate his legacy.
ART: In terms of centennial celebrations for Woody in the New York area, there will be a concert at Brooklyn College as well as a conference at Penn State University in September. What topics relating to Woody Guthrie would you like to see explored at the conference?
TC: That’s a tough question, because there are so many facets of Woody Guthrie’s life yet to be explored! However, the great thing about the academic conferences being planned for this year is that rather than focus solely on a specific aspect of Guthrie’s life, each conference will use Guthrie as the starting point to open a discussion on a broader, contemporary theme. The theme for each conference will be selected by the host institution, allowing them to decide on a topic that is of direct relevance to their local community.
The 2012 Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebrations will include four large academic conferences: Tulsa, Los Angeles, Penn State, and Brooklyn.
The Tulsa conference, Different Shades of Red: Woody Guthrie and the Oklahoma Experience at 100, used Guthrie as a stepping stone to discuss Oklahoma politics. At the University of Southern California conference, Woody Guthrie’s Los Angeles: A Centenary Celebration, we’ll talk about Los Angeles in the late 1930s, where Guthrie worked for several local radio stations and wrote for various newspapers after fleeing the Dust Bowl. Woody At 100: Woody’s Legacy to Working Men & Women, the Penn State conference in September, will use Guthrie to focus on the labor movement and unions, while the theme for the Brooklyn conference, also in September, is yet to be announced.
ART: It has been announced that the research collection of the Woody Guthrie Archives will be relocating from Mount Kisco, NY, to Woody’s home state of Oklahoma in 2013. How is the planning coming along for it?
TC: In 2013, the Woody Guthrie Archives will relocate from Mount Kisco, New York to a permanent home with the George Kaiser Family Foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a native Oklahoman, this move will truly bring Guthrie’s life full circle!
The Archives will be located in a repurposed warehouse – the Tulsa Paper Company – along with other arts oriented organizations, and I have had the opportunity to walk through the building site several times. Work is already underway, and it is exciting to see the Archives’ new home come to life! I have had meetings with the building architects to review design plans and requirements, discussing the archival needs to be taken into consideration during the design phase. This relocation to Tulsa will ensure continued researcher access to the material in the collection, and the long-term preservation of over 10,000 pages of documents held in the Woody Guthrie Archives.
More information on Woody Guthrie centennial events is available online.