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Director's Column: Of Baling Wire and Duct Tape

MKI and CSUMC's mailbox is held together by a computer cable. . . This is no joke, folks. Photo by Jocelyne Bodden

By Joe Salmons

Where I come from in the South, you sometimes hear that an old tractor or car is “held together with baling wire and duct tape”. I use the expression up here, and it’s almost surely misunderstood: It’s not so much a derisive comment about sub-par equipment as something you often say, even with a little pride, about being able to make things work with what you’ve got at hand. In that sense, and only in that sense, I used to think of CSUMC as being held together with baling wire and duct tape: We were created and have grown very quickly, and we’ve used everything we could find to help us along and to make things run smoothly.

Those days have passed and it’s time to find a new expression for how things work around here: The staff has gotten so proficient at finding new resources and putting them to good use that it feels like we’re driving shiny new equipment. Our staff continues to grow – most recently with the addition of Nicole Saylor, erstwhile editor of this Newsletter, as new archivist/librarian – and projects continue to roll on. It’s gratifying to see our staff in our little organization is already being recognized across the region and the nation for the high-quality and innovative work they are doing. This past fall, CSUMC, along with its project partners the Madison Children’s Museum, Randall Elementary School and the Wisconsin Arts Board, received a folk arts in education prize from the American Folklore Society. Thanks to the hard work of our monograph team, you may have heard our first book publication, Memories of Lac du Flambeau Elders, discussed as Wisconsin Public Radio’s feature for February on Wisconsin books and authors. We just found out in December that our “American Languages: The Nation's Many Voices On-Line” project was chosen by the Institute for Museum and Libraries Studies as a model grant for others applying for the National Leadership Grants, which is supporting our project. Almost everybody has worked on that project, but Kevin Kurdylo deserves special thanks for his dedication.

University student and CSUMC hourly, Dave LeClair, hard at work in the sound lab digitizing reel-to-reels. Photo by Jocelyne Bodden

As the rest of this newsletter explains (thanks to the work of Jocelyne Bodden), that pace is continuing, with two books just coming out on theories of regionalism, and sound recordings too; I’m especially looking forward to the reissue of Ach Ya – a collection of Wisconsin German music that Nicole Saylor has been working hard on. The Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture is Anne Pryor and Ruth Olson’s latest way of anchoring our work in communities and integrating it into the classrooms of the region. But that’s just barely the beginning.

We are looking to the future and planning ways to ensure a strong foundation for our future work. More on that later, but for now: Kudos to the CSUMC staff and our partners for all the good work!

Joseph Salmons is Professor of German at UW-Madison, and Co-Director of Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.
Last Updated:
February 4, 2009

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