- Keepers of Tradition: Living Folk Traditions in Massachusetts
Keepers of Tradition, the website for the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Folk Arts & Heritage Program, provides a comprehensive overview of the range of traditional arts and artists in Massachusetts. The site has a lovely and welldesigned home page with vivid images and clean graphics. It provides several entry points for different kinds of users, from the accidental browser to artists, arts presenters, folk communities, or researchers. This easily navigable site elegantly balances the challenges of its many purposes.
The breadth of the program is obvious from the start. A menu on the right side of the site enables one to explore various themes (celebrations, dance, music, sacred expressions, useful things made beautiful, life and work by the sea, passing it on: apprenticeships), which provide a link to online exhibits. Those sections lead to further information and resources (printed catalog, audio, video, photos), which encourage users to dive deeper. Headers in a smaller font across the top of the home page provide a more functional entrée (introduction, Folk Arts & Heritage Program, search archives, blog). The changing photos on the home page add to the dynamism of this site.
Keepers of Tradition begins with an introductory tab that includes information about traditional processes and those who carry them on; a definition of folk art, how it is taught, learned, passed on, and practiced; the range of ethnic and occupational folk groups in Massachusetts; a section on how researchers find folk artists (aka "keepers of traditions"); and plans for the program's future as well as a hotlink to the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). The latter link could perhaps be more prominent, since it is not readily apparent to the casual viewer of this section what the connection is and how MCC programs and grants might be used. An internal link on this introductory page to the MCC 's Folk Arts & Heritage Program (FAHP) would be useful in this section; as well, the e-mail link for MCC folklorist, Maggie Holtzberg, should be much more visible. Including her phone number would also be helpful for constituents. Further, authorship is sometimes a touchy issue with government agency websites; a more obvious indication on the home page that Holtzberg was and is responsible for Keepers of Tradition would not only rightfully provide her with credit for such a well-produced website but would also make it much easier for anyone wishing to contact her. [End Page 364]
In contrast to the introduction, the tab and section on the FAHP provides a clear mission, history of the program, what the MCC does to research and document folk arts, archival holdings, and programming (including how the FAHP connects to the larger agency's arts in education program). What is not obvious to any but state arts agency folk arts coordinators (FACs) is the strength of this link and how important it is for FACs to connect with colleagues and integrate folk arts into the rest of state arts programming.
A particularly nice feature is the archives section, which enables the user to search by artist name, region, and discipline. Calling what is effectively a folk artists' directory an archive is a tactful way to get around having a juried roster and to make the connection between folk arts and heritage. It enables deceased or inactive artists to still be listed and included in the overall portrait of a state's folk traditions. As with the rest of the site, photos in this section are beautiful—well-framed and composed as well as rich in context. The explanatory text provides clear descriptions of the art, the artist's background, and cultural information for each entry. For those entries that have them, the audio and video links are nearly all of very high quality. Across the top of each entry is the cross-reference for the "theme" menu on the home page, which further adds to the accessibility of the site.
A good outreach strategy of this section is its use of more common/generic terms up front, which...