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Archives and Libraries

The Archives and Libraries Section of the American Folklore Society was first established as the Archiving Section at the annual meeting of the Society in 1978 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In response to an interest in a focus on folklore in libraries as well as in archives, it became the Archives and Libraries Section in 1997.

The Section’s mission is to promote the exchange of information on all types of archival methodology relating to folklore, folklife, and other ethnographic collections. In addition, the Section aims to share information and to help develop standards relevant to library collections and activities in folklore. The Section has maintained a particular interest in the developing technological systems that can advance the work of archivists and librarians working with folklore materials, and improve collections management in the field. 

The Section adopted the original version of this statement of goals in 1994, and modified it in 2001 to include reference to library issues:

  • To promote awareness of preservation issues of both historic and modern ethnographic collections and act in support of archival care of documentary media. Because of the potential loss of historic collections in fragile formats (wax cylinders, acetate recordings, nitrate film) and the changing technological media and fragile nature of modern formats (magnetic media, DAT) the skill of archivists and archival repositories must be encouraged, developed, and recognized if documentary collections are to be preserved for future use.
  • To promote the treatment of multi-format ethnographic collections as whole created works including all media and preserving the collectors’ intent. In order to make librarians and historical archivists our collaborators, we must promote an understanding among those professionals of ethnographic collections as multi-format created works.
  • To explore and develop technological methods of providing access to folklife materials using state of the art methods and technologies, such as CD ROM, MARC databases, and World Wide Web. While the development of standard methods of access may help the field, efforts towards the development of standards should not stand in the way of exploration.
  • To promote collections management in fieldwork planning and practice to ensure better documentation of collected materials. To educate students and collectors concerning methods of preserving and managing data, including the use of technology (computer databases, CDR etc.)
  • To encourage student use of archives and special library collections in ethnographic research and to facilitate the introduction of students in ethnographic disciplines to archival practice and library science.
  • To reach out to archivists and librarians in related fields. The concerns of folklife archivists and librarians are shared by archivists and librarians in related disciplines such as ethnomusicology, anthropology, oral history, and sociolinguistics. Establishing connections with these archivists and librarians will help us in mutual efforts to develop our practice.
  • To encourage granting agencies to require planning for collections management and funding for the care of collected materials. Educate researchers about opportunities to apply for funding for collections management.
  • To encourage folklorists in the academy to accept an arranged, housed, accessible collection as a created work, providing credit towards tenure.
  • To support the creation of archives in public or private arts and cultural programs that collect data.
  • To review and analyze the current state of bibliographic control in folklore and ethnomusicology, relating to cataloging and reference tools in all media, ongoing indexing projects such as the Journal of American Folklore Index, the International Folklore Bibliography, and the MLA Folklore Bibliography.

The Section has a listserv for discussions of archival and library issues relating to folklore. The listserv address is [email protected]. To be added to the listserv, please email Andy Kolovos. 

The Archives and Libraries Section has adopted a three-person, rolling leadership model with an incoming, current, and immediate past convener. This model increases the number of active section leaders and ensures a smoother transition between conveners.

The Archives and Libraries Section is currently seeking a convenor. If you are interested or want to nominate someone, contact [email protected].

The Section awards two prizes on an every-other-year basis: the Brenda McCallum Prize (even years) for a work that contributes to the goal of improving archival care and access to folklore collections, and the Polly Grimshaw Prize (odd years) for the support of folklore or ethnomusicology projects with a significant connection to libraries and/or archives.

2017 Pre-Conference

The Archives and Libraries Section hosted Adventures in Archiving, a two-day conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 16-17, 2017, the Monday and Tuesday before the AFS Annual Meeting in the same city, focusing on archives- and library-related issues.



Section members can find an archive of the section’s business meeting minutes on the section’s members-only home page. 

Contact the section convener at [email protected].

Get Involved

Sign in to the AFS Member Portal to join the section and ensure you’re receiving section communications. All of your section involvement can be managed under My Info.

Click here to pay section dues ($20, $10 for students/underwaged).

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