Folklore is an interdisciplinary field that touches upon many subjects taught at Penn and once was its own department. As it has evolved as its own discipline, it has moved from focusing on the study of objects, broadly defined, to an ethnological phenomenological approach. Materials with a literary orientation, written or oral tend to be collected in Van Pelt. Folk Art are in the Fine Arts Library. Ethnographic works are in the Museum library.
Penn had for several decades the world’s premier department in the field and the depth of the library collection reflected that status. Now that folklore is only a program the collection is more basic, supports other fields and is strongest in reference works. The larger collection focused on primary source materials such as texts and tools providing access to them.
The Folklore archive of the Department of Folklore and Folklife was transferred to the University Museum Archive when the department was disbanded. It is especially strong in music from the Caribbean and the Canadian Maritime.
Folklore/Folklife is ruthlessly interdisciplinary. As such it requires familiarity not only with the methods of several disciplines but also with their resources.