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Public Folklore

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"Public folklorists" work primarily in government or non-profit arts, cultural, or educational organizations, such as arts councils, historical societies, libraries, museums, or organizations devoted specifically to folk arts or folklore. Public folklorists are engaged in a variety of activities, including (but not limited to) field research and documentary work, and the production of public programs or educational materials, such as performances, artists' residencies, exhibitions, festivals, sound recordings, radio and television programs, films, videos, and books.

This mix of occupational home base and audiences has characterized the Society's membership from the start. In 1888, the Society's founding group included writers (Mark Twain was one of our founders), private men and women of learning, and museum professionals, as well as university-based scholars. But since 1970, "public folklore" has grown and developed very rapidly in the United States. At the time of this writing, about half of the American Folklore Society's members identify themselves as public folklorists. However, it is important to remember that many folklorists work (or have worked) both in universities and in public folklore, and the two parts of the field are intimately connected. Universities, for example, are where most folklorists are trained in the ways of our field, and the public side of folklore work connects to general audiences in ways that increase appreciation for the field as a whole.

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