The Folklore Program is strongly allied with over a dozen departments, programs, and centers across campus, especially Scandinavian Studies, Languages and Cultures of Asia, American Indian Studies, Celtic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Design Studies, Landscape Architecture, Material Culture Program, Anthropology, Communication Arts, Ethnomusicology, and Library and Information Studies.
Browse the projects and online resources below to see the range of research and interests our Folklore Program's faculty, staff, and students are engaged in:
The Public Folk Arts and Folklife Projects of the Upper Midwest series of project collection guides highlights a wealth of ethnographic documentation and public productions generated in the upper Midwestern region since the 1970s, often with funding from public agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and state, county, and local arts and humanities councils. Organized by the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, this digital on-line clearinghouse provides project descriptions and history, and leads researchers to the varied repositories across the region and nation that house project documentation such as field reports, sound, video, and commercial recordings, photography, exhibits, and ephemeral publications. Representing research in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, projects focus on the region’s distinctive expressive cultures, survey diverse indigenous and immigrant populations, and record an incredible range of traditional performers and practices, from the artistic and musical, occupational and recreational, to the religious and spiritual.
Key Survey Findings: Common Folklore Archiving Issues and Selected Resources (for addressing them)
by Karen J. Baumann & Janet C. Gilmore
CSUMC’s 2005-2006 “Survey of Public Folklore Collections in the Upper Midwest” identified five major problems that folklorists and archivists regularly encounter when attempting to preserve and use documentary collections. We have listed and summarized them here, and have provided suggestions for addressing each problem, with links to varied resources which might be of help. We are especially pleased to publish links to folklore resources as well as helpful guides prepared by expert folklorist-archivists Steve Green and Marcia Segal. We invite viewers to furnish similar guidelines and help us refine and build a better resource by identifying and recommending additional links.
by James P. Leary, Anna Rue, Carrie Roy
Norwegians immigrants settling in 19th century America included numerous performers of traditional songs and tunes, as well as instrument-makers, whose descendants have both sustained and revitalized the old repertoire, while borrowing from and blending with the musical traditions of their Anglo- and European-American neighbors. Likewise several archives, museums, organizations, and individuals maintain significant collections testifying to the vitality and variety of Norwegian American folk musical expressions through such artifacts and documents as musical instruments, including the distinctive Hardanger fiddle, the salmodikon, and the Viking cello; photographs of musicians and musical events; paintings, sketches, posters, handbills, programs, scrapbooks, newspaper stories and clippings; sheet music, songbooks and pamphlets; letters and diaries; commercial and field recordings in various formats, as well as cover art and liner notes. Hence folklorists at the University of Wisconsin, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vesterheim Norwgian American Museum, have organized and digitized a series of key Norwegian American folk music collections and created a portal linking such collections with the sites of relevant organizations and performers.
By James P. Leary; photography by Lewis Koch; project coordinator, Janet Gilmore
Supported by the Wisconsin Folk Museum and informed by the region's folklorists, the Woodland Indian Traditional Artist Project resulted in the ethnographic documentation of 16 Woodland Indian traditional artists from the Upper Midwest in 1994-1995, acquisition of c. 50 pieces of their art work, an exhibit that featured the artifacts, a traveling photo-text exhibit that toured four Woodland Indian nation centers, a summer-fall artist demonstration series, and a Down Home Dairyland radio program. Folklorist James P. Leary recorded and transcribed the interviews with the artists, while photographer Lewis Koch photographed them and their work. The featured artists represented Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Mesquaki, Ojibwa, Oneida, and Potawatomi traditions including appliqué and dressmaking; black ash splint and birchbark basket-making; varied types of beadwork; rabbit fur blanket-making; birchbark canoe-making; cradleboard-making; cornhusk doll-making; flute-making; icefishing decoy making; moccasin-making; yarn sash fingerweaving; silver and German silver jewelry-making; and woodcarving.
This collection brings together, in digital form, a virtual exhibit of objects ranging from the 17th century through the 1930's that depict animals, humans, birds, fish, or supernatural figures. These figures provide unique insight into the folk beliefs, social, religious, cultural, and political influences present in the lives of their crafters. Folk art constitutes the largest part of the survey but it is juxtaposed with a smaller grouping of professionally or commercially produced objects. These objects demonstrate characteristics of the national romantic movement, or the Viking revival period, which occurred around the turn of the 20th century. Unlike other Norwegian folk traditions such as chip carving and rosemaling, figure making tends to be an art of individual expression. However, these artifacts do suggest long held figure associations with certain household objects, such as the horse (a fertility symbol) serving as the handle on mangle boards, which were known to be given as betrothal gifts. The collection is an expanding project. Currently, there are over 80 objects and 200 images. Each entry includes a full image of the artifact, detail images, and is accompanied by basic artifact information.