FOLKLORE COLLECTION

Organizing Principle: Your first task is to identify the organizing principle for your folklore collection. This collection cannot be a random assortment of items; it must demonstrate a coherent theme linking all of the entries, and you are required to provide an introductory statement about this organization. There is, however, no single way to accomplish this task. You may wish to archive the folklore of a specific group and gather various kinds of folklore (such as verbal, material, and customary) from several members. You may focus on one genre of folklore (such as beliefs) from a single group. You may archive multiple examples of folkloric expression (such as variants of a legend) or of an experience (such as the accounts of different people involved in a festival). You may record the folklore of a single individual, again focusing on either a range of genres or an emphasis on one (such as folksongs in her or his repertoire). You may compose a comparative analysis of a folkloric theme across various groups (such as bodily adornment practices). There are other options as well, so feel welcome to discuss this with us, and plan ahead!
Recall from class that a group does not necessarily mean a congregation of people who know one another well and interact regularly. Beliefs that global warming is a hoax or that all GMOs are dangerous to human health, for example, are shared by many people of a similar political orientation who do not know one another. Members of a widespread religion, for example, are similarly linked to people with whom they may never communicate. Although traditional folklore studies emphasize small gatherings of people, you are welcome to work with a group tied intimately together or dispersed and unaware of all viable members. You are welcome to explore face-to-face encounters and performances or online folkloric expression.
Best Approach for Collection and Documentation: After deciding upon an organizing principle for your collection, you should consider the best approach for collection and documentation. You may, for example, decide that participant observation is the most reasonable means to conduct research; for example, you may spend several outings listening to group members tell stories or may attend a parade or involve yourself in a rite-of-passage. You may decide that a more formal interview with someone may be conducive to your goals and the proper way to demonstrate respect to that person. You may combine participant observation with an interview; for example, you may spend time engaged in the preparation of a meal and then interview the cook.
You are required to document as much of the entry as possible. This means that you may need to take fieldnotes (which may or may not be archived) and use equipment to record verbal and visual components of the item. Summaries of performances or interviews or events are not ideal and usually make for a poor entry; the aim of this project is to create a formal record. For example, rather than summarizing a story someone tells about a haunted house in your hometown, you should make every attempt to record the persons actual narration of the story and transcribe it word for word in the entry. Ideally, you should submit a copy of this record to be archived (such as on a DVD or flash drive). Similarly, you should attempt to include emails (which may substitute for transcriptions), images, and even text message exchanges that provide relevant information.
As we have discussed in class, you are welcome to work with groups with whom you do not have considerable acquaintance, but we strongly recommend that you consult with us beforehand in order to discuss the ethical matters of such research. For example, in this case we would encourage you to reach out to a member of the group to introduce you to others. If you intend to document activities that are dangerous, illegal, illicit, or entail expectations of secrecy, you must first consult with us.
Documentation Format: With all of these considerations in mind, the next step of the project is to begin visits, participant observation, interviews, and similar practices of gathering folklore. Each of the entries should provide the following information, even if collected from the same person:
Name of the Informant (or Anonymous)
Place of Collection
Date of Collection
Title of Item
Genre of Item
Relevant Informant Data. This is written in paragraph form and may include name, gender, ethnicity, occupation, religion, age or approximate age, relationship to you, languages-spoken, etc. If you are the informant, identify relevant information.
Item Description including Transcript or Images
Relevant Notation of Inclusion of Audio or Video Record
Contextual Information. This is written in paragraph form and may include cultural or social contexts, such as a rich description of the actual performance you witnessed or the typical conditions for performance, and/or a thick description of its typical meanings; information about other audience members present should be here; this section should emphasize the collaborators perspectives, and ideally would include information as to where they learned this folklore; if the item is culled from an online source or printed material, identify the source here.
Collector Comments. This is written in paragraph form and should include any additional information you consider relevant.