Archiving Culture: American Folklore Archives in Theory and Practice

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[Bloomington, Ind.] : Indiana University
American folklorists have long preserved their research materials in repositories dedicated to this purpose. The motivations for saving these items and the methods of doing so have changed over time, but the practice of preserving research materials has persisted as a central aspect of folkloristics into the present--one that distinguishes it from other ethnographic disciplines such as anthropology. Although these collections go by many names--including folk archives, folklife archives, and ethnographic archives--for the sake of this dissertation I label these collections categorically as folklore archives. Issues related to intellectual property rights and intangible cultural heritage, while important to consider, are beyond the scope of this project. Despite the ubiquity of folklore archives in the discipline, they are an understudied aspect of historical and contemporary practice in folkloristics. This dissertation examines the role of folklore archives in the field, the nature of these collections, and the growing influence on them from theories and practices originating in the fields of library science and archival management. Folklore archives were at one time a distinct product of the discipline of folkloristics, reflecting disciplinary practice and responding to disciplinary need. As theoretical and methodological approaches within the field changed, the utility of these old archival forms diminished dramatically. Rather than abandoning the creation of archives all together, folklorists began to modify archival practice to suit changing needs. Of particular significance is the impact of the requirements of public folklore work on folklore archives, including the reuse and repurposing of archival materials in publications, exhibitions and public events, as well as an increased emphasis on collaborative engagement with communities of origin. Folklore archives in the present are increasingly shaped by the theories and methods of professionally trained archivists. Folklore archives are developing into a hybrid form that draws on both the legacy of archiving in folkloristics and aspects of the well-developed body of theory that informs the work of professional archivists outside of folklore.
Thesis (Ph.D.) - Indiana University, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, 2010
Archives, Ethnography, Ethnology, Folklife, Public Folklore, United States
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Doctoral Dissertation