|Shawn Orr interviews long-time
Mission Valley resident Waldo Phillips as part of his school's Montana
Heritage Project in St. Ignatius, Montana, 1977. Sponsored by the
American Folklife Center, the Center for the Book in the Library
of Congress, and a consortium of Montana organizations and institutions,
the Montana Heritage Project encourages young people to discover
and document the people and traditions of their own local communities.
Photo by Michael Umphrey.
Folklore can be collected from almost anyone,
but certain people, by virtue of their good memories, long lives, performance
skills, or particular roles
within a community, are often especially well qualified to provide information.
Folklorists sometimes refer to these people as "tradition bearers." A
researcher's own family members may include tradition bearers, or can also
provide leads to such persons in the larger community. And the very way
community members are identified by others in the community may indicate
the kind of information you can expect to get from them: traditional craftspeople,
shop keepers, storytellers, musicians, or those who know and use proverbs,
to name just a few examples.
If you have decided on the subject of your investigation and prepared
yourself with preliminary research, you are ready to identify people who
can provide the information you seek. If you are working in your own community,
start with family and friends. If they are unable to lead you to a "tradition
bearer," try a visit to:
community and corner stores;
civic and cultural clubs;
small parks and other outdoor areas in which people gather;
public events like ethnic and community festivals, country music concerts,
volunteer fire department fund-raisers, barbecues, and church homecomings.
Professional folklorists may use such places as starting points when
they are working in communities other than their own. They will sometimes
use flyers and posters, and may even receive helpful local newspaper, TV,
and radio coverage if their projects are particularly interesting and important
locally. Determination and legwork will almost always have positive results.
Most states now have folklorists or folk arts professionals who can give
you additional advice about your project. Helpful assistance may also be
available to you and your project if you are located near a university
that has a folklore studies program, or a folklorist on staff.
For information on state and local programs, as well as on colleges and
universities that offer degrees in folklore, see Folklife Sourcebook, an
online resource at www.loc.gov/folklife/source/
There you will find chapters on "Folklife Programming in Public Agencies
and Organizations" and "Higher Education Programs."