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Release: Oct. 23, 2000

UI professor wins grant to develop online community for ethnographers

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa professor has won a $5,000 grant from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to create a virtual gathering place where K-12 students and teachers, college students and community researchers can share projects and ideas about ethnographic fieldwork.

Directed by Bonnie Sunstein, an Obermann Fellow and associate professor of English and education, the project, "FieldWorking Online: A Web-Community Archive for Cultural Conservation," was one of only two to be funded under the foundation's national Public Scholarship Grant competition, "Imagining America," in 2000.

Sunstein will develop the Web site and launch the project at the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies during the 2000-01 academic year. She will be working in partnership with the National Task Force for Folk Arts in Education.

Sunstein has taught courses and workshops in ethnographic fieldwork across the country and at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and has written several books and articles about documenting community and culture.

"Ethnographic fieldwork details the behaviors, traditions, languages, arts and practical histories as people act out their everyday lives," she said. "This project will provide an electronic community where people can share local traditions and histories from around America. It will help local communities document their diverse traditions, thereby conserving culture all over America."

Sunstein said this type of collaboration will allow those involved in community fieldwork to gain a deeper understanding of their own projects based on the experiences and observations of others who do similar work.