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Whitesburg, Kentucky
Showcasing Appalachia’s Vibrant Culture
Appalshop Archive held an NEH Common Heritage digitization event where residents of Letcher County, KY brought family archive materials for scanning or photographing. Resident John Haywood presented a fiddle he had inherited from Adam Ousley, and a photograph of Ousley holding the same fiddle c. early 1940s. Photo by Haley Hatfield. Image courtesy of Appalshop.

Founded in 1969, Appalshop has its roots in a national War on Poverty job training program that prepared young people to work in film production. While participating in the program, trainees in Whitesburg, KY became acutely aware of documentary filmmaking’s power to counter stereotypes and represent the rich world of stories, conflicts, traditions and cultural changes that surrounded them. In 1972, the NEH awarded Appalshop a foundational grant to help 16 Appalachian students produce eight films while learning about the history and social issues of the region. In the intervening years, Appalshop has produced more than 100 documentary films, founded a record label, established a theater group, launched a community radio station that streams globally, and created a youth media training program. And the NEH has provided the organization with substantive support, including project-specific support for documentary films and challenge grants that enabled Appalshop to renovate and purchase its building and establish an endowment. These grants helped Appalshop raise an additional $1.3 million and become a cultural stronghold in its rural region.

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