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Public Folklife and Documentation Resources

AFS offers this compilation of resources for those interested in conducting folklife fieldwork. These resources have been compiled with several audiences in mind, including folklore professionals, folklore students, community scholars, K-12 teachers, or anyone interested in documenting cultural heritage in its many facets. This compendium of resources addresses the entire fieldwork process, from planning and preparing a project to processing fieldwork materials, with attention to equipment, fieldwork forms, the interview process, media techniques, fieldwork follow-up and analysis, and suggestions for interpreting, using, and sharing fieldwork results. The initial list was developed by Laura Marcus Green and Maida Owens, with support from the American Folklore Society Consultancy and Professional Development Program, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.  AFS members are invited and encouraged to add to these resources.

Funding Folklife Projects

If you would like information about funding a folklife project that would happen in Louisiana, see the Division of the Arts' Decentralized Arts Funding Program and contact the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program at folklife@crt.la.gov.

Planning Folklife Projects

The Louisiana Folklife Program of the Louisiana Division of the Arts has developed a set of resources for those interested in conducting folklife fieldwork. These resources have been compiled with several audiences in mind, including professional folklorists, folklore students, community scholars, K-12 teachers, or anyone interested in documenting cultural heritage in its many facets. This compendium of resources addresses the entire fieldwork process, from planning and preparing a project to processing fieldwork materials, with attention to equipment, fieldwork forms, the interview process, media techniques, fieldwork follow-up and analysis, and suggestions for interpreting, using, and sharing fieldwork results.

In addition to these resources, Louisiana residents may contact the Folklife Program director.

Checklist for Folklife Project Planning

A thorough, at-a-glance checklist for those embarking on folklife research, this inventory of essentials helps frame a project at the planning and development stage, when considering resources to be mobilized.

Resource List of Public Folklife and Documentation Materials

A directory of resources related to folklife and oral historical documentation, this list is especially geared towards independent and public folklorists or others working in diverse community contexts. The publications and websites included here cover a range of topics, encompassing overviews of the folklore field, hands-on fieldwork tips, topic-specific research, and folk arts marketing, among others.

Suggestions for Folklife Fieldwork and Presentations

A comprehensive list of genres that might be considered for folklife research, including music and dance, crafts and material culture, customs and beliefs, and oral traditions and verbal arts. Although the genres presented here pertain especially to Louisiana's cultural landscape, many are relevant to other regions. Further, the list will likely inspire researchers to consider the folklife genres unique to their own region.

Recommended Fieldwork Supplies and Archiving Resources

A directory of resources to help fieldworkers find the equipment and supplies best suited to their needs, with some instructional guides for using these tools of the trade. Also included here are resources relating to archiving folklife materials.

Sample Folklife Documentation Materials

In this section, you will find samples of materials that can be adapted to your fieldwork project.

  • Folklife Survey Form and How to Use It
  • Sample Fieldnotes - Teen Memories of Grade School Traditions
  • Sample Fieldwork Contract


        Sample Artist Contract


        Sample Audio or Video Log


        Sample Photo Log


Folklore in the Community and Documentation Tools


Folklorists work in diverse community settings, applying their fieldwork and research skills to a range of community-based projects. State folk arts programs are most often based at state arts councils, historical societies, museums, and increasingly at universities. Generally, state folk arts programs document, preserve, and present traditional arts of their constituents through a variety of activities, including outreach and research, funding, publications, and public programs such as exhibits, concerts, festivals, tours, and various community partnerships. Many state folk arts programs offer apprenticeships, in which a master artist works with a student in a mentoring relationship, creating an opportunity for intensive one-on-one learning.


More and more, folklorists work in the area of heritage tourism, bringing their expertise to working partnerships with museums, parks, and other institutions that present traditional culture. In the wake of natural disasters, folklorists have worked with survivors, communities, and government agencies to help people conserve both tangible and intangible heritage resources that are jeopardized by environmental events, and to document people's experiences of these events. Further, cultural knowledge or traditions may provide a resource on which to draw, as communities recover, heal, and rebuild following natural disasters. Urban and rural development likewise bring to the fore concerns about the conservation of both natural and cultural resources, which are ultimately intertwined; folklorists might serve at consultants as communities face far-reaching transition.


Folklife fieldwork can be used as an educational tool in K-12 classrooms. Folklife-based curricula provide a springboard for teachers and students to explore and document the cultural heritage of their communities. In addition to the essays below, see Louisiana Voices, a comprehensive folklife-in-education resource that includes a wealth of tools for educators in Louisiana and beyond.


The essays below illustrate the ways that folklorists work in diverse community contexts. Although based in Louisiana, the research and projects presented here provide models that can be applied and adapted elsewhere. The essays presented under Folklore in the Community pose methodological and ethical considerations for folklorists and fieldworkers to consider, inviting us to reflect on our work. Those in the Documentation Tools section provide more practical, hands-on guides to particular areas of folklife research.


    Folklore in the Community


    Keeping It Alive: Cultural Conservation through Apprenticeships - Sheri Dunbar and Maida Owens


    Festival, Cultural Tourism, and the Louisiana Folklife Program - Maida Owens


    Cultural Tourism in Cajun Country: Shotgun Wedding or Marriage in Heaven? - Barry Jean Ancelet


    In the Wake of the Hurricanes Research Coalition: A History - Susan Roach


    Government Gives Tradition the Go-Ahead: The Atchafalaya Welcome Center's Role in Hurricane Katrina Recovery - Jocelyn H. Donlon & Jon G. Donlon


    Oral History, Folklore, and Katrina - Alan H. Stein and Gene B. Preuss


    Vernacular Power: The Social and Cultural Immplications of Katrina and Rita - Barry Jean Ancelet


    Saving Your Own House: Folk Culture and Mitigation - H.F. "Pete" Gregory


    Mardi Gras and the Media: Who's Fooling Whom - Barry Jean Ancelet

    Documentation Tools


    Documenting Quilting - Susan Roach


    Cemetery Preservation Guide - Sheila Richmond


    Learning from Your Community: Folklore and Video in the Schools, A Classroom Curriculum for Grades 4-8 - Gail Matthews-DeNatale and Don Patterson


    Fieldwork Basics Overview - Paddy Bowman, Sylvia Bienvenu, and Maida Owens


    Guidelines For Preservation Of Ethnographic Field Collections


Learn More About Louisiana Folklife


For more articles about Louisiana's folk traditions and cultural communities, see Articles and Essays



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American Folklore Society
Mershon Center, The Ohio State University, 1501 Neil Avenue, Columbus OH 43201-2602 USA
614/292-4715; fax: 614/292-2199; www.afsnet.org


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