More than 650 books, journals and videos on folklore and folk arts-related topics have been donated to the Department of Anthropology in Syracuse University's Maxwell School by research professor and folklorist Felicia "Faye" McMahon, who began the collection in 1987 while working on her Ph.D. in folklore and folk life at the University of Pennsylvania.
The collection is intended for community members to assist them in documenting their own cultures, thereby ensuring the preservation of regional and transnational cultural resources. The collection will provide a community-based resource for use by the members of each cultural group. McMahon believes that a specialized folk arts library is a useful tool to assist community organizers in their efforts to communicate to the public an understanding of the primacy of culture in building civic capacity. Now permanently housed in Room 206A in Maxwell Hall, the collection will serve as the core of a lending library for members of the Central New York community.
The idea for a folk arts library accessible to community scholars evolved from the Department of Anthropology's Folk Arts Initiative, begun in 2005 and supported by a variety of external sponsors as well as the Office of the Chancellor. Christopher DeCorse, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, and McMahon consider the department to be in a unique position to provide both support for and acknowledgement of the cultural contributions of community members in Central New York. "These same community members have in turn provided invaluable experiences for our students," says McMahon.
For example, with her extensive 15-year community arts fieldwork, McMahon has introduced interested students to diverse local communities with whom she has worked. The students have interviewed traditional artists for several folk arts programs hosted by the Department of Anthropology, the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center, the Community Folk Art Center, The Warehouse and the Mayfest Folk Arts Tent.