After the Ethnography

Tomb of the Unknowns at dawn. Memorial Day 2013.  Photograph by Debra Lattanzi Shutika

Tomb of the Unknowns at dawn. Memorial Day 2013. Photograph by Debra Lattanzi Shutika

The field school officially ends this week.  Students will do their public presentation on Wednesday June 19 @ 2 o’clock (details here) and submit their paperwork to me on Friday.

What happens to the thousands of pages of fieldnotes, the dozens of hours of interviews, the photographs and ephemera we collect?  More importantly, what happens between the ethnographer and his or her informants: the people who have generously opened their lives to us for the duration of the project?

In many cases, ethnographers develop life-long friendships with the communities where they collect.  They are maintained through visits and calls, and social media.  In the case of Arlington National Cemetery, students will go on with their lives and studies, but my work at the cemetery will continue.  My plan for the coming year is to review the ANC data and share the major findings with Dr. Steve Carney, the ANC Historian, and eventually write a book about the cemetery’s modernization process.  My plan for next year’s field school is to place students with groups that work alongside the cemetery and are vital to its functions, but are not cemetery personnel: The Armed Services Bands, the Arlington Ladies (who attend every funeral ceremony at ANC), the Chaplains, and the National Park Service personnel who manage the Arlington House.

The materials we collected this year will be archived at the American Folklife Center and the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress later this year.  Once the materials are processed, all of the information collected for the field school will be available to the public, to researchers or anyone interested in the information through the American Folklife Center.

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