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A sampling of folklife and cultural tourism projects in the U.S.
Case Study: Delmarva Folklife Initiative*
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation's Delmarva Folklife Initiative spans the three states which share the Delmarva Peninsula—Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Cultural tourism was built into this multi-faceted initiative from the beginning because feedback from regional planning groups indicated a strong interest in pursuing cultural tourism activities. Cultural tourism professionals are represented on the project planning committee, and project goals include developing cultural tourism products that can be marketed by tourism professionals in the region. The initiative has already begun outreach to the region's tourism professionals.
In February 2000, a meeting on the subject of cultural tourism was held to familiarize local people with the preliminary results of the field research undertaken for the project during the preceding two years; to educate residents regarding the possibilities for cultural tourism projects within the region; and to help cultural and tourism professionals see how the Delmarva Initiative might help them in their work. Ninety-five people attended the meeting. Ten represented county and state tourism offices; other attendees included artists from the region and professionals from natural resource agencies, cultural institutions, bed and breakfasts, and chambers of commerce. Leaders in the cultural tourism field from around the country were invited to share their experiences at the meeting, including three individuals whose work is profiled in this report, Doris Dyen (Rivers of Steel), Jens Lund (Northwest Heritage Resources), and Linda Caldwell (Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association).
The initial response to the conference has been promising, as tourism and heritage professionals were energized and excited by the possibilities. Still, folklorist Tom Walker, the initiative director, believes there are many more inroads to be made over the next year or so. He has found that, in general, tourism professionals in the region are more interested in products and less in product development (i.e., fieldwork and inventories). He is hoping that as the initiative develops products the tourism professionals will see the value of product development and collaborate on such projects in the future.
Walker would consider the project a success if tourism officials in the region understood that folklorists can "help them identify some of the hidden resources in their communities, and help them to interpret those resources as well." He would like them to understand that the "people folklorists work with, such as farmers and fishermen, have a very intimate and multi-generational relationship to place, and that the stories they tell are crucial to a deep understanding of the cultural landscape."
Walker is concerned about what the tourism industry might call "carrying capacity," that is, the number of people a region can accommodate. His interpretation of the term is the number of people accommodated before the local culture is impacted. He is trying to develop cultural tourism products that, like an audio tour currently being planned, maximize carrying capacity while limiting intrusion. Field research has shown that in some parts of this region, the "carrying capacity has already been taxed" in instances in which outsiders without respect have intruded on local culture. The initiative is working to persuade local people that the tourism developed there will not be on the scale of neighboring Ocean City, Maryland. At the same time, the initiative is working to insure that the scale of development is indeed limited in the region.
In addition to the audio tour, the initiative will publish a guide to the region's cultural resources. This guide is envisioned first as a resource for local people that will contain advice on creating folk arts programming and building partnerships across state lines. But it also can be used by tourism professionals and will be available for sale throughout the region and thus would be available to tourists as well. A website featuring the cultural heritage of the area will also serve multiple audiences; it will also include seasonal information on local events.
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