Niagara University folklorist Edward Yong Jun Millar recently received an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to document and preserve the stories, experiences, knowledge, and traditions of workers involved with the Ransomville Speedway. His is one of only seven projects in 2020 to have been awarded this competitive annual national fellowship.
Millar, curator of folk arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University and adjunct professor in the art history with museum studies program, will interview drivers, mechanics, ticket sellers, facility workers, maintenance crews, track managers, pit crew members, concessionaires, and more over the next year. The interviews will be available to the general public through the American Folklife Center’s Occupational Folklife Project web page and to researchers in person at the AFC.
“I was excited to learn that we received the Archie Green Fellowship as I knew what it could mean for preserving an important part of Niagara County’s heritage and raising national awareness of the Ransomville Speedway. After being brought to my first race by a co-worker two years ago, I knew this fellowship represented a great opportunity, as there are so many moving parts, and knowledge, skill, and experience needed to host each race,” Millar noted. “The fellowship recognizes the need to preserve the voices and experiences of workers in this country — that their knowledge and skills are an important part of the narrative of America’s history, despite historically being overlooked or underrepresented. As a resident of the county. it feels great to be able to help and be involved in sharing the voices and experiences of my neighbors in a national archive.”
The Ransomville Speedway, in Ransomville is rich with history, culture, legends, and stories from its early founding with Ed Ortiz and the Ransomville Slo-Pokes to the present.
“We are very excited to be working with Edward on this project,” said Jennifer Martin, general manager of the speedway. “Racing is not generally a sport that most think would have history, but that is certainly not the case. Ransomville Speedway is a huge part of Niagara County, and we are excited to help with interviews, pictures, and anything else that may be needed. When this is all said and done, we will encourage everyone to go take a look at the completed project.”
The Archie Green Fellowships were established to honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a pioneering folklorist who championed the establishment of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and devoted his life to documenting and preserving the traditions of American workers.
In addition to the materials being archived in the American Folklife Center, this fieldwork will also lead to a future exhibit at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University.