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Williams helps put folklore on the map

October 19, 2010
Miranda Pederson/Daily News
Western Kentucky University Distinguished Professor Michael Ann Williams stands at the Felts Log House on campus.

 

Distinguished Professor Michael Ann Williams is out there.

Whether she is exploring log cabins in Appalachia, pondering the origins of country music or literally putting Bowling Green’s historic Shake Rag district on the map, the head of Western Kentucky University’s department of folk studies – one of only a few in the country – does not believe in hiding away in ivory academic towers.

Williams, who begins her 25th year at WKU in January, has since 2004 headed the department of folk studies, one of most successful in the U.S.

She is perhaps best known in the community for placing the Shake Rag District on the National Register of Historic Places and in folklore circles for her pioneering look at oral history and vernacular architecture in her 1993 book, “Homeplace.” But perhaps Williams is most admired by her students for her teaching and her dedication to applied folklore in addressing social issues.

“Because of the nature of the discipline, we don’t do research just for ourselves,” said Williams, who believes in putting her scholarship to work for the public good. “We do things we want to share with people.” More…

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