Fieldwork diaries as valuable source of research
Anu Korb (Estonian Literary Museum)
Paper short abstract:
The requirement to keep a fieldwork diary was imposed since the establishing of the Estonian Folklore Archives (in 1927). First-hand observations turn the fieldwork diaries into an unique source. The diaries highlight changes that have occurred the archives in the course of time.
Paper long abstract:
The requirement to keep a fieldwork diary was imposed on those collectors who used to collect folklore as part of their job but also the stipendiaries and students since the establishing of the Estonian Folklore Archives (in 1927) until today. While folklore texts are used to convey collective rather than personal experience, fieldwork diaries emphasise the personal over the collective and narrate about the present rather than the past. First-hand observations turn the diaries into a particularly valuable and unique source as they contain information that is less often found in other materials. At the same time, collectors do not represent only themselves during collecting but also the institution under which the fieldwork is carried out. Whether folklore collectors know about their diaries becoming later available to the archive's users inevitably influences what is being written down. Of course, the notes of collectors also differ in time. The notes written in the Soviet period are often generalising and rather lack emotion. The fieldwork diaries of this time do not go into much detail about the circumstances or informants, and are rather limited to laconic observations. Describing one's thoughts and feelings was not common, and the collector chose the position of a passive observer. Nowadays the importance of individual recollections in archives and studies increasing. The diaries shed light on the customs and traditions of ordinary people, their everyday life, highlight changes that have occurred the archives in the course of time, etc.
- Archives and Museums