In 1958, Edward “Sandy” Ives founded the Northeast Folklore Society and began publishing Northeast Folklore. As his personal research expanded, and as he began teaching folklore courses, he needed a repository for material that began pouring in both from student fieldwork and from his own. Thus, he founded the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History.
In the late 1970s, largely through Ives’s experience as a regular panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Folk Arts Program, he began to get involved with the new field of public folklore. In 1983 Ives asked for and received a half-time assistant which was became the full-time position of Associate Director in 1988. Ives organized the Maine Folklife Center in 1992, combining the Northeast Folklore Society, the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, and public programming into one unit. Beginning in 1996, the Center hired a full time archivist who set up the computer database system and archival procedures that we continue to follow today.
Ives retired in 1999. In 2003, Pauleena MacDougall, who had been the Associate Director since 1995, was appointed Director of the Maine Folklife Center.
In 2010, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress offered to purchase the original collection held by Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History in exchange for enough money to digitize the collection. Funds from that purchase were used to hire the current Archives Manager, Katrina Wynn, who is overseeing the digitization process.