The Field School for Cultural Documentation, a collaboration between George Mason University and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is set to begin on May 20. For the last three weeks I have been prepping students who have applied for the course, in part to let them know my expectations (this is not a typical summer course) and to do preliminary field work at the cemetery to better prepare myself and the students for their whirlwind ethnographic experience.
The purpose of the course is to document the occupational culture of the cemetery using ethnography and oral history methods. The materials the students and I collect will be archived at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project. This the first time in the history of Arlington National Cemetery that there has been a systematic documentation of workplace culture.
So far I’ve found working with the cemetery personnel extremely satisfying. There is a clear chain of command (which I expected) and a strong commitment to this collaborative effort.
The students will present their preliminary research findings in the theatre of the Women in Military Service for American Memorial on Wednesday June 19, 2013 at 2 PM. The event will be free and open to the public.