Published September 13, 2023

Virginia Folklife Program Director Katy Clune, two other Virginia Humanities staff members, and three paid interns from University of Virginia’s Public History Institute recently presented executive director Shauna McCranie oral histories transcribed this summer for the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum (RFM). 

The Virginia Folklife Program was established in 1989 at Virginia Humanities, with funding support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. The folklife program is the state center for the documentation, presentation, support, and celebration of Virginia’s cultural heritage and it is part of Virginia Humanities, the state humanities council.

Anderson Moss examines a boat at the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. 

Whether sung or told, handcrafted, or performed, Virginia’s folklife refers to those “arts of everyday life” that reflect a sense of traditional knowledge and connection to community. Virginia’s folkways include traditions that have been rooted in the Commonwealth for centuries, as well as those more recently have been carried here and nourished by Virginia’s diverse immigrant communities.

Virginia Humanities staff converted the oral history DVDs, originally recorded in the early 2000s, into digital video files before folklife interns transcribed a total of forty-three interviews—representing hours and hours of conversation, said McCrinie.

Interviewees include Henry E. Dixon, Raymond L. Curry, Jr, Captain Charles R. Winstead, Jr., Wendell Haynie, Captain Carroll Curry, Francis Haynie and many others. With the videos digitized and transcribed, the museum will be able to share these personal histories more easily—whether in the museum itself or on YouTube.

Reedville Fishermen’s Museum docent Kathy Elsden, left, shows our team a menhaden pot at the museum. 

The Virginia Folklife Program has a long-running relationship with RFM. It supported and documented the museum’s founding and opening days. Since then, Virginia Folklife recorded the Northern Neck Chantey Singers, who were part of the Folklife Apprenticeship program. George Butler was also part of the Apprenticeship Program, which provides funding and a public platform to support the continuation of cultural traditions between a person who is a master of a craft with someone interested in learning. 

“When the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum approached us to see if we could support this project, I knew I wanted to say ‘yes’! Making oral histories like these accessible, returning them to the community, is so important. I wasn’t sure how exactly we would transcribe forty-three interviews when I accepted the project in November of 2022. Our three public history interns, Anderson Moss, Kaity Wasinger, and Kate Wietor, plus our staff member Jennie Taylor, spent hours of their summer carefully listening to these voices from Reedville. A huge thanks to them for making this possible!” Clune said.