Peggy Bulger is a folklorist and served as the director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress from 1999 to 2011, when she retired and moved to Florida to continue work on personal projects.
A native of Albany, New York, she graduated from The Milne School in 1968 and she received her BA in Fine Arts from SUNY at Albany in 1972; her MA in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University in 1975; and her Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Her dissertation topic was on Florida folklorist, author, and activist Stetson Kennedy ("Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy"), which was published as a book of the same name in 2017, the first comprehensive biography of Kennedy, with a contemporary essay by Paul Ortiz.
She began her professional career in Florida by serving as Florida’s State Folk Arts Coordinator in 1975 and became administrator of the Florida Folklife Program from 1976 to 1989. As Florida’s first state folklorist, she was the prime creator of the Florida Folklife Collection, which later included the work of several prominent folklorists. The collection, today housed at the State Archives of Florida, features many Florida folk artists such as singer-songwriter Gamble Rogers, basket maker Lucreaty Clark, blues performer Moses Williams, and painter Pharaoh Baker.
After helping to establish the Florida Folklife Program, including apprenticeship programs, and producing educational videos and publications, workshops, exhibits, and creating the Florida Folklife Collection, Bulger left in 1989 to work as the Folk Arts Director and Senior Program Officer for the Southern Arts Federation in Atlanta. In 1999, she was named director of Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center – only the second person to hold that post since the Center’s creation in 1976. (Florida folklorist Alan Jabbour was the founding director). Bulger retired from her position as Director of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress on December 31, 2011.