About the Collector
Folklorist Consultant, Dr. Laurie Sommers (b. 1955) founded the South Georgia Folklife Project in 1996 and served on the faculty of the College of the Arts at Valdosta State University (Music Department) from 1995-2005. The SGFP ended as an official project of Valdosta State in June, 2005, due to budget cuts. Sommers subsequently oversaw the transfer of the collection from the working resource collection of the SGFP to an accessible archival collection within the VSU Archives and Special Collections. Sommers holds a Ph.D. (1986) and MA (1980) in Folklore from Indiana University, with a concentration in ethnomusicology, and has worked as a public sector folklorist since 1982 for organizations such as the Indiana Division of State Parks, the Bureau of Florida Folklife, the Smithsonian Office of Folklife Programs, and the Michigan State University Museum. She is the author of various publications for academic and general audiences and has produced numerous public programs, including concerts, festivals, exhibits, and documentary radio. An experienced fieldworker, she frequently gives workshops on community documentation. Projects and publications from the SGFP period include the Folklife of Wiregrass Georgia traveling exhibition (with funding from the Georgia Humanities Council and NEA), the Okefenokee Music Survey (funded by the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Community Folklife Program), the Changing Sounds of South Georgia radio series to be broadcast on GPR (funded by an NEA Access grant), Folkwriting: Lessons on Place, Heritage, and Tradition for the Georgia Classroom (with Diane Howard and educators from Cook County Schools, funded by the Georgia Humanities Council), "Let Us Sing": Southeast Georgia Sacred Harp exhibit at the Okefenokee Heritage Center (funded by the Georgia Council for the Arts Folklife Program), Faces in the Piney Woods: Traditions of Turpentining (with funding from the Georgia Folklife Program), "Okefenokee Swamp Folklore" in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Continuity and Change in Hoboken (Georgia) Sacred Harp," (Society for American Music Bulletin (Summer/Fall 2000), and the award-winning Florida Music Train, a multicultural educational resource on traditional music in Florida (Florida Folklife Program, Division of Historic Resources, 2003).