American Folklife Resources

This guide is for students and teachers who want to find out more about American Folklife Studies. It will define American Folklife and trace a pathway through the print materials and network resources that together will give you basis from which you can prepare lesson plans or syllabi or research a specific topic. The guide also lists educational institutions that are known for their folklore and folklife programs and government agencies and non-profit organizations that offer grants and consultation services for folklife projects.

What is Folklife?

The folklife concept is associated with Scandinavian and German speaking countries. It is a branch of anthropology called regional ethnology and concentrates on customs, beliefs, stories, crafts, foods, rituals, and types of architecture, and analyzes them as interrelated units within particular groups. European Folklife scholars document these traditions among their own people, unlike their counterparts, the anthropologists, who study exotics living elsewhere in the world.

Until recently folklife did not have many adherents in the United States. American scholars used the terms folklore to deal with oral traditions or material culture to focus on particular crafts, foods, types of architecture, and other material manifestations of traditional life. However, with the introduction of the European concept of folklife into university folklore programs, folklore and material culture have been integrated into the folklife discipline. This process has not been acceptable to all. Numerous debates concerning definitions and boundaries have arisen and this situation is something you should keep in mind when you read and go through print or electronic sources.

Printed Materials

If you want to orient yourself to the folklife idea, then I suggest that you first look at the American definitions of folklore written by folklore scholars in Collier’s Encyclopedia; The Encyclopedia Americana; and The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Also keep by your side as a reference source the Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1972).

Next you should browse two folklife anthologies. One is Don Yoder’s Discovering American Folklife: Studies in Ethnic, Religious, and Regional Culture (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1990). This work focuses on Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania German folk cultures. The other is Warren Robert’s Viewpoints on Folklife: Looking at the Overlooked (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988), an anthology that surveys the folk cultural forms of Southern Indiana. Yoder and Roberts write in a direct jargon free style that they are able to sustain in their theoretical essays, as well as in their field analyses, which, though local in subject matter, have universal application.

A third useful source is Eliot Wigginton’s editions of the Foxfire series. Wigginton, a rural Georgia high school teacher, got his students to interview family, neighbors, and friends about Appalachian folkways and had them write up their field experiences into articles that were published in the Foxfire magazine. Starting out, I would recommend Foxfire 8, a 500 page anthology, edited by Eliot Wigginton and Margie Bennett (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, c1983). It contains the same articles that were published in the first issue of the series plus additional material.

The advanced student interested in folklife theory would find the late Richard Dorson’s anthology Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972) a valuable reference tool. In his Introduction, Dorson reviews folklore and folklife scholarship in the United States and divides the twenty-six articles into four fields– oral folklore, social folk custom, material culture, and folk arts– and areas of folklife methodology that include fieldwork, archiving, mapping, museum organization, and cultural geographical analyses. Thirteen years later Simon Bronner edited American Material Culture and Folklife: A Prologue and Dialogue (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985). This monograph updates Dorson’s work and includes participant dialogues to resolve the on-going definition debate concerning folklore, folklife, and material culture . A recent work by Henry Glassie, geared for undergraduate students and teachers, Material Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), integrates the traditional material culture genres– folk art, vernacular architecture, crafts, life history, and custom– with folklife theory and method.

For the historically minded, Thomas J. Schlereth compilation, Material Culture Studies in America (Nashville: The American Association for State and Local History, 1982), consists of thirty-nine essays that survey American material culture studies as practiced by historians, museum specialists, and folklife researchers. Schlereth’s opening survey essay, “Material Culture Studies in America, 1876-1976,” gives an detailed introduction to this marginal interdisciplinary field.

Periodicals that contain folklife articles are the Journal of American Folklore, Western Folklore, Journal of Folklore Research (formerly the Journal of the Folklore Institute), Folklore Forum, Indiana Folklore, Pennsylvania Folklife, Kentucky Folklore Record, New York Folklore, Material Culture, American Culture, Journal of Popular Culture, American Quarterly, and the Winterthur Portfolio. The most readable are the state folklore journals. The others are geared to college and scholarly audiences. All have annual cumulative indexes. The Journal of American Folklore came out with The Centennial Index in 1988 (Vol. 101, No. 402) and an updated supplement in 1994 (Vol. 107, No. 426) that list every article, note, and review according to serial date, volume and number and author, subject, and title.

The best print index for folklife books and articles is Volume 5 of the annual Modern Language Association International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures. This index is divided into the topics of folklore, folk literature, ethnomusicology, folk belief systems, folk rituals, and material culture — categories some would say belong to Folklife . The citations are accurate, thorough, international, and include festschriften and obscure journals. Its electronic counterpart, the Modern Language Association Bibliography index (MLAB), works well because it can handle complex searches. However, precision is often difficult due to the overlapping citations that occur when the user employs folklore, folklife, or material culture in the title, subject or keyword fields.

There are several folklife dissertation indexes. One is Don Yoder’s Discovering American Folklife, pages 303-305, that includes Ph.D. dissertations conducted under Yoder’s direction as University of Pennsylvania Folklife Professor from 1962 through 1989. This resource would be limited if it were not for the fact that Yoder was an early proponent of the field in this country and many of his students have gone on to become noted scholars. Alan Dundes’s dated Folklore Theses and Dissertations in the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976) covers M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations from 1860 through 1976. The work is arranged chronologically and is inconsistently indexed by subject, author, and institution. The most current and reliable source is the electronic Dissertation Abstracts International database that has author, title, subject, keyword, year, university, and adviser access points that allow the user to find a known item or browse Ph.D. dissertations that focus on folklife topics.

Specialized folklife bibliographies are few. One is Robert A. Georges and Stephen Stern’s American and Canadian Immigrant and Ethnic Folklore : An Annotated Bibliography(New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1982), and the other is Simon J. Bronner’s American Folk Art: A Guide to Sources (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1984). Both have adopted the interdisciplinary folklife approach to the study of ethnic groups and folk art and are still regarded as reliable resources. Otherwise, the student, teacher, or researcher would have to go to specific recently published books or articles and look at footnote references or bibliographies

The folklife organizations that the individual can join are local or national. All the journals mentioned above except for the Journal of Folklore Research are publications of their respective societies and you can receive these periodicals for the cost of organizational membership.

Many of the books, articles, dissertations, bibliographies, periodicals and festschriften listed in this pathfinder are so esoteric that they would only be found in large public or academic libraries. Smaller ones would not have them and you would have to resort to interlibrary loan to get them. Many folklife works can be purchased through major on-line bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders. For out of print books, try Abebooks or Alibris. Both sites give the price and condition of each multiple listed work and you can order directly or email a request to the bookseller. For the more difficult-to-find studies call Book Search at 800-776-4732 or email the service at hammonds@i1.net. Finally, if you know the author, title, date, or university of a Ph.D. folklife dissertation, go to the ProQuest web site, and click on the Dissertation and Thesis Author Services link to search or purchase a copy.

Network Resources

The printed materials will give you the background to understand and interpret folklife theory and data. Network resources have not yet reached this level of intellectual sophistication. However, they are helpful in making connections to folklife’s public and applied faces. These include The Professionial Society, Research Directories, Regional and State Programs,University Departments, Teaching Resources, Online Exhibits, Folklife Artists, Folklife Genres, Full Text Electronic Journals and Papers, Careers, and Comprehensive Searches and Listservs.

The Professional Society

  • American Folklore Society http://www.afsnet.org is the professional home for folklorists and folklife scholars. The web site explains the range of interests and associations of the society; defines the field of folklore with bibliographical references; has an on-line membership form and lists benefits; discusses the annual American Folklore Society Meetings and has online proposals for papers, panels, and other presentations; and names publications available to members including JSTOR access to Folklore, Journal of Folklore Research, Western Folklore and The Journal of American Folklore. In addtion, current issues of JAF are available through Project Muse. The site offers a job bank for prospective folklore and folklife scholars.

Research Directories

  • The American Folklife Center of The Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/folklife/ is a national clearing house for folklife services, information, and guides for the fifty states. Links include an in-house reference service; professional employment opportunities; training programs; grant funding opportunities; conferences and calls for papers; a directory of folklife resources in the United States; print publications available online; information about published recordings from the collection; and a guide to the collections of the Archive of Folk Culture.
  • Archives of Traditional Music http://www.indiana.edu/~libarchm/index.html at Indiana University holds commercial and field recordings of vocal and instrumental music, folktale’s, interviews, oral history, videotapes, photographs and manuscripts collected by folklife scholars, ethnomusicologists and doctoral graduate students. Collections are searchable through Indiana University’s on-line catalog, IUCAT (be sure to click on “OK” in the dialog box to activate the search screen.)
  • The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage http://www.folklife.si.edu/ a comprehensive site that covers the range of the Smithsonian’s activities that include the mission and history of the center, archival materials and print and electronic resources, cultural heritage and policy and research center initiatives,cultural education materials, publications, and online exhibits.
  • SocioSite http://www.sociosite.net is a directory of scio-cultural categories such as food, folklore, society, communication, ethnicity, culture and related subjects. Sponsored by the Social Science Information System based at the University of Amsterdam.

  • Tapnet Links

    http://afsnet.org/tapnet/ or Traditional Arts Program is a site that deals with federal and national folk and traditional arts programs, state and regional folk arts programs, local folk and traditional arts agencies, folk arts in education, documentation of traditional arts, museums and archives, personal websites for independent folklorists, guidelines and applications, national heritage fellows, and federal opporutnities for cultural funding. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and the American Folklore Society.
  • Voice of the Shuttle http://vos.ucsb.edu/index-netscape.asp is a humanities site that includes an anthropological category that lists teaching and research links relevant for folklife studies. The site allows the user to add links that are reviewed by VOS staff. Requires authentication through free sign-up.

Regional and State Programs

The mission of the regional folklife programs is to collect, document, preserve, present, and interpret the traditions of their particular regions or states and to educate the public through exhibits, festivals, and workshops offered in organizational settings, libraries, schools, and local historical, cultural, and arts societies.

University Departments

Since folklife is not an established discipline in America, most university programs do not have a curriculum leading to a degree in the subject. However, many college and universities offer courses in folklife and its allied subjects– folklore, cultural studies, ethnic studies, local history, public history, and other interdisciplinary programs. A comprehensive directory of degree granting institutions that offer major and minor concentrations in folklife studies is the Library of Congress’s Higher Education Programs in Folklore and Folklife http://www.loc.gov/folklife/source/grad.html Each entry includes the name, address, phone, and degree offered.

The better known schools that have B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. majors, programs or concentrations in Folklore and Folklife are listed below. Visit these sites to get specific information concerning admission requirements, opening and closing dates, degrees offered and requirements (which are often changing), departmental affiliations (English, American Studies, Anthropology or Interdisciplinary; very few have Folklore Departments), course listings, faculty, financial aid, and application forms:

  • Indiana University: folklore and ethnomusicology majors for the B.A., M.A., & Ph.D. http: //www.indiana.edu/~folklore/
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland: folklore major for the B.A., M.A., & Ph.D. http://www.mun.ca/folklore/about/
  • The Ohio State University: Center for Folklore Studies: folklore major for the B.A., M.A. & Ph.D. http://cfs.osu.edu/
  • The University of Missouri-Columbia: folklore concentration for the B.A. Folklore major for the M.A. and Ph.D. http://folklore.missouri.edu.
  • UCLA: dance and world cultures concentrations for B.A. Areas of specialization in folklore studies in M.A. & Ph.D. in World Cultures Program. http://www.wac.ucla.edu/degrees.php
  • University of California at Berkeley, Folklore Program : folklore major in M.A. program and major in M.A. program while concurrently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the social sciences or humanities. http://folklore.berkeley.edu/ .
  • The University of Pennsylvania: folklore and folklife minor in the B.A. program. Graduate admission to the folklore and folklife program is currently suspended. However, concentration in folklore and folklife is available for the M.A. & Ph.D. http://www.sas.upenn.edu/folklore/
  • University of Oregon: certificate in folklore for B.A. Folklore concentration for M.A. and Ph.D.http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~flr
  • Western Kentucky University: folklore minor for the B.A. Folklore, public folklore, folklore and education, and historic preservation majors for the M.A. http://www.wku.edu/pcal/index.php?page=folk-studies/
  • Utah State University: folklore and public folklore for the M.A. or M.S. http://folklore.usu.edu/
  • University of North Carolina: minor in folklore, B.A. Students can major in folklore at the B.A., but must create their own study plan in Interdisciplinary Studies. Folklore major for M.A. Minor in folklore for Ph.D.http://www.unc.edu/depts/folklore/
  • Committee on Degrees in Folklore & Mythology, Harvard University: folklore as a secondary field for the B.A. http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~folkmyth/

Teaching Resources

  • American Folklife Center: A Teacher’s Guide to Folklore Resources. http://www.loc.gov/folklife/teachers/provides a list of materials prepared for the classroom by folklorists and other cultural studies specialists in closely related fields.
  • CARTS: Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students http://www.carts.org/ is a collaborative web site that is sponsored by the National Network for Folk Arts in Education and City Lore’s Educational Programs. CARTS is a site for sharing questions and ideas about strengthening bonds between K-12 educators and the community. It is an online clearinghouse for national and regional folklife resources, as well as a place that hosts online educational programs such as interviews with folk artists and teacher workshops. The site is made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and Verizon.

  • Food Syllabi Set

    http://food-culture.org/syllabi.html is a special project sponsored by the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS). The 2003 edition is edited by Jonathan Deutsch from Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, and revised from the 2000 version by David Myhre, Princeton University, Netta Davis, Boston University, and Amy Bentley, New York University. The 612 page document in PDF format is a collection of course outlines with bibliographies and other materials from classes focusing on food studies and agriculture and society. The topics range from the sociology and anthropology of food to food in agriculture and the arts to food research methodologies.
  • Syllabus Finder http://chnm.gmu.edu/syllabus-finder/syllabi/ is a search engine for finding syllabi on a variety of folklife subjects for graduate and undergraduate college and university classes.

Online Exhibits

The Library of Congress and National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative are sponsoring The American Memory Project http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html that consists of searchable collections (either by keyword or directory) of manuscripts, images, histories, audio and video clips, and socio-cultural data from projects conducted by the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress and others solicited from universities, archives, libraries, and historical societies. Here are examples of sites listed under the Culture, Folklife category under the Browse Collections by Topic on the home page.

Other online exhibits focus on themes that would interest the folklife researcher are:

  • Beyond Face Value http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/cwc/BeyondFaceValue/ is a iconographic site that depicts images of slavery on monetary notes issued before, during, and after the American Civil War. Each image set is documented within the economic, social, and cultural contexts of the period. A project of the U.S. Civil War Center and funded by the Lousiana Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/ is a digital archive of 76 cookbooks, published between 1798 and 1922, that include page images, full-text transcriptions, and indexed searching. A joint project of The Michigan State University Museum and Special Collections Division of the Michigan State University Library.
  • “Hezzie” Goes To War: World War I Through the Eyes Of A Mid-Missourian http://coas.missour.edu/anthromuseum/pattrickwwi/ is an exhibit that tells the story of John Hezekiah Pattrick– who volunteered for civilian support work for the Great War in 1917– in letters, photographs, postcards, and clothing. A joint project of the University of Missouri-Columbia Western Historical Manuscript Collection and the Museum of Anthropology.
  • Rearview Mirror: A Look Back At Our Lives in Detroit http://www.detnews.com/history/ is an urban history project from The Detroit News story and photo archives that documents everyday life and events important to the city from its founding in 1701 to the present.
  • The Valley of the Shadow http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/ takes two counties in the Shenandoah Valley, Franklin, Pennsylvania, and Augusta, Virginia, and chronicles their experiences before, during, and after the American Civil War through a variety of primary sources that includes newspapers, letters, diaries, church, military, and public records, photographs, and maps. The site is thoroughly documented and contains lesson plans and topics with linked materials for middle and high school students and college undergraduates. A project of the Virginia Center for Digital History at The University of Virginia.

Folklife Artists

  • DC Blues Musical Groups http://www.dcblues.org/ is an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the traditional blues groups and singers.
  • Four Florida Folk Artists http://www.interestingideas.com/out/florida.htm is a site that presents the works of four self described Florida folk painters living in Lakeland.
  • John Moretto, storyteller http://www-personal.umich.edu/~acicala/john.html is an immigrant Venetian who tells in his own words how he got to the United States in the style of the traditional life history.
  • Rose Selvaggio, ceremonial cook http://www-personal.umich.edu/~acicala/rose.html is a daughter from a family born in Sicily who shows how she makes a ceremonial dish common to her parents’ native region of Trapani located in the Northwest area of the island.
  • Silvio Barile, folk sculptor http://www-personal.umich.edu/~acicala/silvio.html is an immigrant Neapolitan who discusses the personal and cultural meanings of the large cement sculptures he has created in his backyard.

Folklife Genres

  • Archive X http://www.wirenot.net/X/ is an archive of traditional supernatural stories from all over the country.
  • The Cinderella Project http://www.usm.edu/english/fairytales/cinderella/cinderella.html is an academic text and image archives containing 12 English variants of the Cinderella Tale (Aarne-Thompson Tale Type 510, 510 A&B) common during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. These materials come from the de Grummond Children’s Literature Research Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • The Electronic Vernacular http://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/electronic.html is Professor Barbara Kirsheblatt-Gimblett’s (NYU) folkloristic classification and definition of electronic vernacular forms (there are some broken links.) In her essay, Electronic Vernacular, http://www.nyu.edu/classes/bkg/issues/electronic-bkg.htm, she explains her ideas concerning cyberspace, communication, interactivity, and vernacular expressive forms (this article was published in Connected: enagements with media. ed. George E Marcus. Late Editions, 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.)
  • Folklore http://www.folklore.org/ProjectView.py?project=Macintosh&topic=Quitting&detail=medium contains categories of narratives that have as their subject the original Macintosh Computer, its development, and the people who created it.
  • Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts http://pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html is an academic site that contains international full text variants of folk and mythological narratives according to Aarne-Thompson numbers, as well as new legendary material. It is arranged alphabetically by category, theme, and title and edited and translated by Professor D. L. Ashliman from the German Department at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Food Habits http://lilt.ilstu.edu/rtdirks/ is an academic site devoted to the bibliographic resources for the anthropological and folkloristic study of food and food-related behaviors. The materials are organized by region and topic. Complied by Robert Dirks, Anthropology Program, Illinois State University.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Stories http://hca.gilead.org.il/ is the creation of the faculty of the Israel Institute of Technology who constructed this scholarly site complete with introductory notes, annotations, bibliography, and 168 of Hans Christian Andersen’s full text tales in chronological order. The English translation of the tales was done by H.P. Paull in 1872 and the original illustrations were completed by Vilhelm Pedersen and Lorenz Frolich.
  • Italian Rap and Hip Hop http:// www.italianrap.com is a comprehensive site dedicated to the global research of Italian Hip Hop and the history and vernacular culture of Italian Americans.
  • Southern Arizona Folk Arts http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/folkarts/is an exhibit that features the folk arts of the Southwest including quilts, egg decorating, cowboy art, Chicano murals, low riders, Mexican-American paperwork, and Mexican food.
  • St. Pat’s Celebration Committee http://stpats.mst.edu/ is a 92 year old college folk festival at the University of Missouri, Rolla, where the students celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in their own traditional way.
  • Swapping Stories: Folktales From Louisiana http://www.lpb.org/programs/swappingstories/ examines Louisiana’s cultural diversity through its traditional storytellers. Sponsored by the Louisiana Folklife Program, the Swapping Stories project includes biographies of the storytellers, video clips, and transcriptions of a variety oral genres including animal/magic and tall tales, jokes, myths, and legends.
  • Tales Collected by the Brothers Grimm http://myweb.dal.ca/barkerb/fairies/grimm/is a collection of the 209 tales from the 1884 text translated by Margaret Hunt. Tales can be downloaded in two differently formatted versions.
  • Tales of the Wooden Spoon http://www.snopes2.com/spoons/spoons.htm is a collection of traditional urban legends, faxlore, and news stories presented and analyzed by the site creators, Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.
  • Urban Legends http://www.urbanlegends.com/ is an archive of urban legends from alt.folklore.urban usenet group.
  • Urban Legends and Folklore http://urbanlegends.about.com/ is a directory that archives newsgroups, news letters, lists, bulletin boards, and chat rooms that deal with current traditional urban legends, rumors, and hoaxes.

Full-Text Electronic Journals and Papers

  • American Folk http://www.americanfolk.com/ is a commercial electronic journal that has articles and features on folklore and popular culture.
  • American Folklife: A Commonwealth of Cultures http://www.loc.gov/folklife/cwc/ is the revised version of Mary Hufford’s 1991 essay on folklife and multiculturalism.
  • The Barn Journal http://www.thebarnjournal.org is an online journal that deals with all traditional aspects of barns.
  • Cultural Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Folklore and Popular Culture http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~caforum/ is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed e-journal that investigates everyday expressive culture through articles, notes, reviews, and responses. Volume 1, 2000 to the present..
  • Folklife Center News http://www.loc.gov/folklife/news/ is a collection of American Folklife Center Newsletters archived from Volume 14, no 2 1992 to the present.
  • Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman’s Introduction to Field Techniques http://www.loc.gov/folklife/fieldwork/ is the 1990 revised and expanded second edition of Peter Bartis’s work on folklife field research.
  • Folklore http://haldjas.folklore.ee/folklore/ is a government electronic peer-reviewed journal of folklore published in English by the Institute of the Estonian Language and edited by Mare Koiva &Andres Kuperjanov. The e-journal focuses on shamanism, urban legends, ethnomusicology, paremiology, popular calendar data, and folk beliefs. Articles are archived from Volume 1, June 1996, to the present..
  • Music &Anthropology http://www.fondazionelevi.org/ma/index.htm is an academic online full text multimedia interactive peer-reviewed journal that focuses on the traditional music of Mediterranean cultures. Annual online publication from Volume 1,1996 to the present (no. 11, 2006, publications are not up-to-date.) Founded by Professor Tullia Magrini and the Study Group on Anthropology and Music of the International Council for Traditional Music. The site is copyrighted in 1996 by the Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo dell’Università di Bologna, Via Barberia, 4, 40123 Bologna, Italy, and hosted and supported by the Fondazione Ugo e Olga Levi per l’Istruzione Musicale Superiore, Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, S. Vidal 2893.
  • Newfolk: New Directions in Folklore http://www.temple.edu/isllc/newfolk/journal.html is Editor Camille Bacon-Smith’s peer-reviewed academic e-journal that features articles on folklore in the modern world from 1997 to 2003 and a lively listerv.


  • American Cultural Resources Association http://acra-crm.org/ represents all aspects of the cultural resource industry including historic preservation, history, archaeology, architectural history, historical architecture, landscape architecture and specialty subfields such as geoarchaeology, soil science, and ethnobotany. Entries are listed by company name, contact name, work address, web address, work phone, work fax, service states.

  • Folkline

    http://www.afsnet.org/jobs/is a site where folklife specialists can get current information on academic positions, museum curatorships, or non-profit and state public sector work and can post their curriculum vitae.

Comprehensive Searches and Listservs

Use Google and its formats to get information in folklife studies. When you conduct a broad search, remember that folklife, folklore, and material culture are often used indiscriminately and so you will have to experiment using a combination of terms that will get the desired results. Each of Google’s features gives a particular kind of information. For the Web, +”folklife” yields around 989,000 sites that include assocations, festivals, bibliographies, genres, national and state and local programs, and so on. The Google Map search will visually indicate the name of the folklife organization, address, telephone number, and directions. Searches in News or Blogs provide up-to-date interactive information. More specific searches such as “Kentucky Folk Architecture” or “Cajun Foodways” or “Katrina and the 9th Ward” result in fewer hits with more relevant information. Wikipedia is also a useful reference source for folklife research because it contains esoteric traditions, genres, individuals, and cultures. Google and Wikipedia are fine for initial work. However much of their information is not authoritative–anyone can put up a web site or create and edit an entry–and so it is important, once you have a general idea of what you want to do, to use the library’s electronic card catalog and get books on the topic or access, if possible, proprietary databases to download selected or peer-reviewed articles..

Important in folklife are the discussion lists. For individuals interested in the field or a tradition using the folklife approach, Google Groups, News, or Blogs can create lively interactive discussions. Professional folklife specialists go either to Folklore Listserv (from Texas A&M University) or to the more recent H-Folk (from Michigan State University) which has become more popular. Cultural specialists who work for arts councils, museums, historical societies, or city and state cultural affairs departments and focus on the public or applied aspects of folklife have spirited interactions in Publore. These sites require application, approval from the moderator, and authentication. All provide the same services. You can join or leave the list, search using author, subject, date, and time boxes, and access archived messages by month and year. The Folklore Listserv and H-Folk are updated monthly, the first going back to January 1990 and the second to November 2008. Publore begins in December 1996 and archives its posts every week. Clink on the month or week and you will get a table of contents of messages, their arrangement in a classified format, and various sorting commands and other options. Clink on the title and you can read the message which includes the header along with various view and option commands.

Folklife materials also appear on other moderated academic listservs that deal with similar subject matter and issues. For example, browsing the discussion groups on H-Net Online (from Michigan State University) one can find groups dealing with topics that may be relevent to folklife such as gender studies, cultural studies, defamation, labor history,oral history, memory studies as well as many others. Two other listserves must be mentioned. For researchers who organize, preserve, retrieve, and publish their data, Archives (from Miami University of Ohio) offers cyber communication with individuals from a variety of fields. Anthropology (from SUNY Buffalo) deals with ideas that folklife specialists consider discussed from a different disciplinary perspective.


Finding folklife resources in cyberspace require that you employ key subject words folklore, material culture, and folklife because of overlapping historic associations that have been carried over from the print world. However it is becoming clear that in the public and applied sectors, folklife is the standard designation for studying the traditional ways of doing things within particular cultures. In the academy where the book and article still hold sway, the European derived folklife concept has gradually taken hold. With the emergence of the evolving cyber technologies including YouTube, My Space, Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon and others, future thinking may make this debate between folklore and folklife seem artifical and irrelevant.

This pathfinder was created by John Cicala and was updated by John Cicala on 5/11/2009.