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Accordion List

Folklore and Folklife is no longer an official program at Penn, as of 2004, but many aspects of the subject have been taught or researched here for over 100 years. Consequently, the Penn Libraries' collection has great historical depth. For instance, Daniel Brinton did extensive work in Native American oral literature and in fact his publications from the period 1860-1880 were for some time the only ones on the subject. There has also been a long line of ballad scholars who have taught at Penn which is reflected in the collection.

The Penn Libraries has a strong collection that is especially deep in folk narrative primary and critical sources. Material culture studies are also strongly represented. These cover worldwide subjects. Folklore scholarship, though often flawed in its execution, was almost always concerned with inclusion of marginalized groups including ethnic minorities and women. The Libraries will continue to collect scholarly journals and monographs in folklore as they become available in appropriate formats in the future because folklore is of interest to so many disciplines.

The core of the collection occupies two ranges of books in the general stacks. Because of the difficulties in applying the Library of Congress classification to folklore, material is scattered throughout the collection. Large numbers can be found throughout the entire 'P' class since virtually every literature has some roots in folklore. The collection consists of the major journals in the discipline worldwide in all languages.

1. Chronological

No chronological limits.

2. Formats

Primarily printed materials and microform. Some audio materials are appropriate, particularly in ballad and folksong research. Consultation with the music librarian is necessary. Ephemeral publications are not collected. Children's materials are collected selectively if they provide high quality texts with strong attention paid to authenticity to folk performances. Relevant websites.

3. Language

English predominates; any language possible.

4. Publication Dates

We would try to fill any gaps. Any work is of interest if we do not already own it. In extreme cases, older published texts may be the only available examples of now-nonexistent oral literatures.

The vendors and approval plans which are widely used at the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center are also used with folklore materials. Most folklore books are listed in the usual national bibliographies. Specialized sources are the recently received lists published in Fabula: Zeitschrift fur Erzdlforschung and Zeitschrift fur Volkskunde (both quarterly).

The collection emphasizes the intellectual history of the discipline and texts relating to its major genres. Ethnographic works are collected heavily. Especially attended to are prose narratives including folktales and legends, material culture, folk art, and folk music. Insofar as the collection supports other disciplines, superstition, and folk belief are collected as well. 


The two most relevant libraries at Penn are the Albrecht Music Library, inside the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, and the Museum Library. The music collection includes relevant materials in folksong and balladry. The Museum Library collects widely in oral literature, material culture, and field linguistics especially in Native American studies. Moreover, it has extensive collections in European ethnology, which has similar intellectual roots to folklore and still has many connections to it. Our East Asia materials also include extensive collections of folk literature. The Fisher Fine Arts Library contains materials in vernacular architecture and folk art so there is overlap with Van Pelt in these fields.

Locally, two important collections are those of the Balch Institute and the Contemporary Culture collections at Temple University. These collections consist of materials often thought to be ephemeral by most; yet for folklorists they provide what is often the only printed source material available. In the first case the Balch's concentration on ethnic studies provides materials on one of folklore's historical subjects. Likewise, many of many works collected at Temple are those often thought to be peripheral to academic libraries but for folklorists essential documentation.

Many specialized libraries are also of use to folklorists depending on their research interest. For example there are smaller libraries with specific collections; among them, the German Society of Pennsylvania and Swedish Historical Society. Another example of a library that would be of potential interest, although not necessarily on first glance, is that of Philadelphia University which has extensive collections in textile arts which are often the concern of folklorists.