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Collections - MF 035 Maine Folklife Survey

The Maine Folklife Survey was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (Folk Arts Program) and the Maine Arts Commission. Begun in 1980, this immense project was directed by Dr. Richard Lunt. Lunt and his staff of six fieldworkers produced an index of research findings in addition to three public programs (a slide/tape presentation and two traveling photographic exhibits), and The Maine Folklife Index: Resources for Study, a bound volume of the types and locations of private and public folklife collections.

The survey was developed to identify and document folklife resources within the state. Material culture collections were identified, and traditional festivals and community events were recorded using audio and video equipment. Almost a hundred interviews were conducted with informants during the course of the project. The interviews have been accessioned in summary form instead of with full transcriptions, and they are open to the public. Through a series of questionnaires and interviews, fieldworkers were able to locate and document private collections of photographs, artifacts, family records, etc.

The materials found within the Maine Folklife Survey are most valuable to researchers seeking leads or preliminary information. The survey project laid valuable groundwork for future projects. However, it is only the diligent researcher who can make productive use of the printed Index. It is at best simply a finding list. Though a variety of topics are included, such as unpublished manuscripts (letters, scrapbooks, business records), local publications, (county histories, church or civic group cookbooks), material culture (kitchenware, farm implements, school and household furnishings, textiles) and ephemera (broadsides, postcards, letterhead), the Index lacks vital information on the quantity and condition of materials.

The slide/tape program, “Maine’s Folklife,” presents an overview of the traditional arts and occupations of Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Other resources include a black and white photo exhibit, “Maine Folklife 1980″, and a color exhibit, “The Lobster Buoy”. These are the results of the many fieldwork photographs collected during research.

The most valuable records of the Maine Folklife Survey materials are the fieldwork journals kept by researchers. Although these materials are not at present available to the public, they provide significant information about the regions, informants and folklife encountered during the study. The Archives also houses the questionnaire forms completed for the survey which often provide more specific details than those included in the Index.

A sampling (not exhaustive) of interview topics covered during the survey includes crooked knives and gum boxes; river drives; country music; supernatural powers; wood carving; Skowhegan Fair; scrimshaw; vernacular architecture; dowsing; canoe building; fiddling and fiddle making; moose calling; livestock auctions; horse and ox pulling; bean hole beans; Ossipee Valley Fair; Jonesport lobster boat races; Franco-American music; Fryeburg Fair; guides and guiding; storytelling; buckwheat milling; lobstering; Blue Hill Fair; and blueberry raking.

The collection includes artifacts, photographs, videotapes, audiotapes, field journals, questionnaire forms, and other materials.


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