P51


The role of archives in the circulation chain of tradition 
Convenorss:
Mari Sarv (Estonian Literary Museum)
Risto Järv (Estonian Literary Museum)
Kelly Fitzgerald (University College Dublin)
Gary West (University of Edinburgh)
Location:
Ülikooli 18, 227
Start time:
1 July, 2013 at 10:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
3

Short Abstract:

The panel invites to think on the role of tradition archives - a register to document local vernacular culture. Which are the present collecting policies and ideologies; which are the aims and intentions of archive users? Which kind of materials have the potential to return to the circulation?

Long Abstract

The panel invites to think on the role of tradition archives, be it national, private or community archives. Of their nature, tradition archives act as a register to document and engage with concepts of local expression. Ethnological and folklore archives hold millions of records of specific, regional material. Recent technological developments have allowed greater movement of and access to these repositories.

For whom are the tradition archives actually meant? Which are the present collecting policies and ideologies; which are the aims and intentions of archive users?

A central issue relates to the importance of the continuing record and how best to document the vernacular imagination. How does the digital access to materials affect the concepts of local and regional? In 2013, is it possible or is it even relevant, to draw on tradition archives in order to shed light on a locality or a region? In the vernacular imagination how pertinent are actual places and spaces?

An nowadays' archive is not meant to be only a treasury of materials, a dead end. Which kind of materials have the potential to return to the circulation, what are the motives and preferences of interest groups participating in this process? To what extent should the collection and publication principles be taylored according to the users' needs and to what extent follow the established traditions?

Accepted papers:

Author:

Kelly Fitzgerald (University College Dublin)

Paper short abstract:

Technological advancements have also created various avenues for the dissemination of new vernacular material to circulate throughout ever-increasing groups and communities. A central issue relates to the importance of the continuing record and how best to document the vernacular imagination.

Paper long abstract:

Technological advancements have created avenues for the dissemination of new vernacular material to circulate throughout ever-increasing communities. A central issue relates to the importance of the continuing record and how best to document the vernacular imagination. Perhaps, arguably, in a time when tradition archives have little resources to collect current and contemporary material- folklore and its contextual relevance are changing at a faster rate than ever before. Hence, at this period in time, it may be more urgent to collect, gather and assess material found within the vernacular imagination. In a hundred years time the work of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries will be well represented but what about the twenty-first century not to mention the twenty-second century? Elements found in earlier traditional material may be seen to have had a longer life expectancy than material today. This enhances the need and urgency to collect material as it makes its way into society. Is it possible to identify a point in time that qualifies vernacular culture as having become part of tradition? If so, how long must it be remembered after the events have occurred to be considered part of tradition? Within these islands at the moment there is an inundation of vernacular culture created orally, textually and visually around the recent findings of horsemeat in beef burgers. There is less a chance of collecting even the 'sampler' today as the speed of change challenges the documentation of an item that might be regarded as representative.

Author:

Lauri Harvilahti (Finnish Literature Society)

Paper short abstract:

Internet is at present among the most essential links in the circulation chain of the tradition, and the role of the folklore archives is to find solutions in order to store the essential documents representing the social memory of our own time.

Paper long abstract:

Folklore archives in the digital era

Lauri Harvilahti

The materials in the folklore archives have traditionally existed in the form of friable paper, brittle sound tapes, or fragile photographs. However, during the past decades we have met the challenges of the digital era. Traditionally, the main role of folklore archives has been to protect the collected items and making them accessible. In the future fulfilling this task will be difficult without creating proper criteria and practices for maintaining digitized records and born-digital culture. Incredible amounts of born-digital content are created at present. The web-sites, Open Graph, or Linked Open Data Clouds of the Web provide unprecedented possibilities for distributing and linking data, and for making it accessible. However, does the open and linked - and ephemeral - world of the Internet meet the primary task of an archive: to store, maintain and manage the records? Internet is at present among the most essential links in the circulation chain of the tradition, and the role of the folklore archives is to find solutions in order to store the essential documents representing the social memory of our own time. The archives are facing a difficulty to decide how, what and by what means material should be archived. The main concern is to establish necessary standards and practices for management and long-term storage of the folklore of the Internet era. Best practices may be created by sharing experiences in an international network of folklore archives.

Author:

Pertti Anttonen (University of Eastern Finland)

Paper short abstract:

Archives are modern institutions for the preservation of history and culture, but they are not innocent depositories of collectibles. The paper discusses an apparent reluctance in some areas of folkloristics to deal with the theoretical issue of collections as mediated representations.

Paper long abstract:

Archives are modern institutions for the preservation of history and culture, but they are not innocent depositories of collectibles. Instead of providing unmediated material for research and learning about other times and places, the collecting as well as the display of that which has been collected is always embedded in its own rhetorics and politics in terms of who is represented, how, for whom, and for what purposes. From the hermeneutic perspective, all archival documents are highly contextual, even if they may lack contextual information concerning the people mentioned or about the situations in which the text documents were written. This paper discusses the apparent reluctance in some areas of folkloristics to deal with the theoretical issue of archival collections as mediated representations, as indicated in some noteworthy recent publications. The paper also discusses the production of such representations as circulation of folklore.

Author:

Niina Hämäläinen (Kalevala Society)

Paper short abstract:

I will present some examples of oral tradition from the perspectives of textualisation policies in Finland. How do early collecting and publishing ideals relate to the present image of oral tradition? How does the textualised material compare to the archive material?

Paper long abstract:

In my paper, I will discuss the textualisation process and the history of oral tradition in Finland. Textualisation process is referred to as the process whereby oral tradition is transformed into text form and made available. Textualised tradition is examined in my paper in terms of national and ideological objectives reflected in the process whereby oral tradition obtained its written form.

Elias Lönnrot (1802−1884), the author of the Kalevala, the national epic of the Finns (1849), collected a diverse and large folk poem material in 11 journeys around Finland and Russian Karelia between the years 1828−1844. The collected material is preserved mainly in the archives of the Finnish Literature Society. Based on this material, Lönnrot published different folk-poetry collections whose selected poems and verses have been considered to represent authentically the Finnish oral tradition. Yet many of the actual collected folk poems were not in the public domain and were hidden in the archive during his lifetime.

My contribution to the discussion of archive material and circulation will be presented from the perspectives of textualisation policies in Finland. How do early collecting and publishing ideals relate to the present image of oral tradition? How does the textualised material compare to the archive material? Based on this I will give some archive and published examples of what is considered oral tradition of Finns and what is excluded from it.

Author:

Tove Ørsted (Society of Swedish Literature in Finland)

Paper short abstract:

While digitization make archival material more accessible through online platforms we take the risk of making it misleadeing or limiting at the same time. How can we meet the new possibilities of digitization and still be trustworthy?

Paper long abstract:

As an ethnologist working with digitization of photographic material one of my personal goals is to publish as much material as possible with no or very few restrictions, so that anyone can find it and use it as they please, regardless of where they are or what they do. This allows for amazing possibilities but how can we ensure that future research will continue to be diverse while some of the material is easily accessible on the internet and some material remains hidden in the physical archives?

The archive holds a huge responsibility to grant researchers equal access to material. Until recently, archives have been reached through physical visits and you would be guided by a professional who knows the material quite well. All relevant material would be presented to you personally. While this kind of service serves the researchers well, it limits them to local sources while material in more distant locations might be unused. Today the situation is sometimes reversed. Digitized material can travel around the world without boundaries, we are no longer limited by location, but the material we find is limited and most likely picked out and pre selected from larger collections. Digital material from one specific area might be misleading.

I would like to discuss how we can meet the new possibilities of digitization but at the same time hold on to the value of traditional archives.

Author:

Anu Korb (Estonian Literary Museum)

Paper short abstract:

The researcher acts as conduit between the community and its information and traditions. For the informants, a publication of their material represent their own stories and folklore, while for the readers they offer a peek into an unfamiliar world and an opportunity to revise established opinions.

Paper long abstract:

The point of folklore collection is not merely accumulating material in the archives, but it is the first stage of salvaging material from being lost ensuring that there will be something to study, publicize, and publish in print, such as documentaries or music albums.

The role of a researcher, an outsider, is particularly challenging—s/he will have to mediate the community's information and traditions in the motherland, but also convey news and opinions from the motherland to the informants. Members of the lore group always prefer having the material collected from them made public, and the outcomes reach back to the community. The issue of feedback, giving the material back to the group of informants, is not at all straightforward. What a compiler of a publication, a documentary or an exhibition has in mind may differ considerably from that of the community members. Evaluation of the material is influenced by people's values, intra-community relationships, etc. Recording oral history often reveals how differently informants may remember the same events. A researcher collecting folklore is often trusted with private information. The researcher may not even realise the thin line between what is appropriate for publication and what is not. For the informants, a publication of the material collected from Siberia's Estonians represents their own stories and folklore, while for the readers they offer a peek into an unfamiliar world and an opportunity to revise already established opinions.

Author:

Pia Olsson (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

Organising, responding to, and finally analysing a collection in a tradition archive means different things to the different parties concerned. With examples from one Finnish tradition archive I discuss the ways these expectations affect the process of circulating vernacular imagination.

Paper long abstract:

Organising, responding to, and finally in the end analysing a collection in a tradition archive means different things to the different parties concerned. Something that for an archive can be a 'neutral' aim to record cultural knowledge can for the respondent appear as an invitation to make a common cause for something considered personally important. Similarly, something that for a respondent is an innocent piece of everyday information can in the collections take shape as part of an ideological project.

In my paper, I would like to discuss the way the different kinds of expectations towards the recording of vernacular tradition affect to the motivation of the different interest groups. My experience of tradition archives is that of the researcher who literally is circulating the material once collected into a research and back to the field. In my case, the collections have been two questionnaires dealing with women's lives archived in the National Board of Antiquities in Finland. These questionnaires have not ended up as part of a treasury or a dead end, but this is not always the case. With these - retrospective - examples I would like to analyse the factors that are affecting the ways the collections in tradition archives are relevant to present-day phenomena.

Authors:

Taive Särg (Estonian Literary Museum)
Sille Kapper (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will be about causal relations and meanings of traditional folk dance and folk song in Estonia: how and what kind of folklore material has been circulated to archives and back again, and which collective ideals are revealed in that contemporary reality of traditional dancing and singing.

Paper long abstract:

In contemporary Estonia the vernacular concepts of 'traditional folk dance', 'folk song' and 'traditional song' range from the imagination of older 'peasantry' folklore forms fixed in archival records to the use of those forms or their elements today in participatory as well as presentational settings.

During the project we investigated what kind of folk dance and song material has been circulated from the field to archives and back again, how it was is used, and what the dynamics of dancing and singing in different communities and contexts is like. For the purpose of the holistic and interdisciplinary claims of the analysis the importance of audiovisual dance/song recordings combined with high quality context and metadata could not be overestimated. As the organic medium of a dancing and live community singing 'text' can never be fixed in archival records, a combination of various media is the way to retain the complexity of the research objectives and minimize the inevitable gaps that arise when data are transmitted from living human body and its movement to a record in audiovisual, verbal or graphic format. The analysis of versatile archival records in their cultural context may lead to reliable conclusions about those collective ideals emerging and acting in contemporary reality of traditional dancing, singing and culture in general.

The research was supported by ETF grant no. 9132