Regional Folklore Resources
This section highlights museums and cultural centers known for their folklore collections.
Illinois State Museum
With multiple locations around the state, exhibits of interest include anthropology displays on Native American pottery, basketry, and weavings, displays on 300 years of household life in Illinois, and a quilt exhibit.
Museum of the Grand Prairie (Formerly Early American Museum)
Located in Mahomet, in Champaign County, the museum displays tools, implements, personal belongings, and other artifacts of domestic life which tell the story of life on the Grand Prairie. Past exhibits have focused on Illinois quilts and the history of African Americans in the region. The museum website includes digital exhibits and information on educational programs.
Tarble Arts Center Folk Arts Collection
Based at Eastern Illinois University, the Folk Arts Collection at the Tarble Arts Center is most visible collection of Illinois folk art in the state. Special features include memorial tributes to Cora Meek of Mattoon and Martha Hayden of Greenup. Meek passed away on July 1st, 2001, at the age of 111 and was well known as a textile artist and Hayden was known for her imaginative papier maché sculptures.
Selected Folklore Websites
American Folklife Center
The AFC, established as part of the Library of Congress in 1976 is dedicated to the documentation and preservation of traditional culture within the United States, including materials from a range of cultural groups within the U.S. such as Native American, African American, and immigrant groups, in addition to materials from other urban and rural cultures within the U.S. The center also houses the Archive of Folk Culture, which includes materials from all fifty states.
American Folklore Society
The primary professional organization among folklorists, AFS holds an annual conference in October with presentations on a wide range of topics, in addition to workshops and pre-conference tours of local or regional folkloric or cultural sites. AFS also publishes the quarterly Journal of American Folklore, and the bi-monthly newsletter, AFSNews.
Provides information on a range of folklore resources, is especially useful for K-12 teaching materials on folklore and folklife.
A site which provides access to a rich assortment of folkloric and ethnographic films that document and provide insight into the importance of folklore and traditional culture in people’s lives. Strong examples include The Painted Bride, The Men Who Dance the Giglio, Appalachian Journey, Home Movie: An American Folk Art and Joy Unspeakable.
National Council for the Traditional Arts
Among the oldest organizations to promote traditional and folk arts, the NCTA organizes the National Folk Festival and sponsors the National Heritage Fellowship Awards for folk artists.
Supported by the American Folklore Society, the database provides access to books, journals, web archives and grey literature in the public domain or that were published in open access format. The database in searchable by keywords and allows you to refine your results by format, language and/or publishers.
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
A research and educational unit of the Smithsonian Institution, which promotes the understanding of contemporary grassroots cultures in the U.S. and internationally. The center organizes the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and produces Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It is also home to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.
A site that documents urban legends and offers opinions on their validity; a valuable resource for those undertaking research on urban legends. Snopes offers a range of categories from Autos to Cokelore; the site is also searchable by subject.
Uncle Ben, CEO?: The Strange History of Racist Spokescharacters. David Segal. Slate. (Racist Folklore & Advertising slideshow)
A slideshow provided by Slate magazine which examines a range of racist depictions throughout advertising history in the last 150 years and how these depictions relate to popular conceptions on race. The display was prompted by Uncle Ben’s 2007 “promotion” from servant to CEO.
Illinois Arts Council (Ethnic & Folk Arts Division)
Provides information on the IAC’s Ethnic and Folk Arts Master/Apprentice Program, which provides stipends to master artists and apprentices learning their crafts.
Old Town School of Folk Music
Provides information on adult and children’s classes offered in a wide range of roots music and dance traditions, also provides information on concerts and other events at the school.
Tarble Arts Center Folk Art Collection
Provides information on the Tarble Arts Center’s folk art collection, which includes paintings, baskets, quilts, woven textiles, thread and needlework, carvings, blacksmithing, and a number of mixed media works such as dolls, scaled replicas of buildings, and dioramas. Many of the approximately 500 pieces are from the Midwest, with most works dating between 1950 and 1990.
A nonprofit media arts center, based in Appalachia (Whitesburg, KY), which promotes local cultures and supports people’s efforts to use new media technologies to tell their stories.
Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures
Based at the University of Wisconsin, the CSUM promotes research and supports archival collections on the diverse cultures of the Upper Midwest.
Iowa Arts Council, Folk & Traditional Arts Program
Provides information on resources provided by the Folk & Traditional Arts Program at the IAC, including lesson plans, media materials, traditional arts tours and rosters, and Iowa’s new immigrant communities. Also provides information on the Iowa State Fair and the Midwest Folk Festival.
Kentucky Artisan Center
Located in Berea, KY, the center supports traditional local culture by making Kentucky crafts, music recordings, and foods available for purchase.
Missouri Folk Arts Program
The MFAP is a program of the Missouri Arts Council, administered by the Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Its mission includes documenting and preserving living Missouri folk cultures and making these rich traditions more accessible to the people of Missouri.
Ozark Studies Institute
A multidisciplinary institute devoted to research and education about the culture, history, and geography of the Ozarks. Its mission also includes collaboration with regional folklife centers, museums, historical and cultural societies and making relevant university collections visible (i.e. the Max Hunter Folksong Collection), based at Missouri State University (Springfield).
Traditional Arts Indiana
A program of the Indiana Arts Council, housed at the Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. Its mission is to promote public awareness of Indiana’s cultural traditions and foster pride among practitioners of traditional art and culture.
Wisconsin Arts Board, Folk and Community Arts
Designed for students, educators and the general public, Wisconsin Folks!, is a rich resource for information on Wisconsin artists and their crafts and their ties to various ethnic communities in the state. The site includes information about arranging artist presentations for schools and community centers.
Folklore & Popular Culture, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Library
A description of folklore resources from the Ozarks available at the UA Library, including the manuscripts and other papers of renown Ozark specialists Vance Randolph and a collection of Ozark folksong transcripts.
Long Island Traditions
Promotes ethnic and maritime traditions of Long Island, including information on programs for K-12 and artist profiles.
Ozark Folk Center
Educational and resource center in Mountain View, Arkansas, promoting Ozark culture and crafts. Center provides crafts demonstrations and sponsors events centered on folklife practices such as traditional music and horticulture.
New York Folklore Society
Information on the publications and projects undertaken by the New York Folklore Society, including information on regional artists and a useful discussion of what folklore is.
North Carolina Folklife Institute
NCFI documents and presents traditional culture in North Carolina. The site includes a list of audio links to various segments in their Changing Faces of Tradition audio series. Topics include Mexican rodeo, African American quilting traditions and attempts by regional potters to adapt to changing conditions.
Western Folklife Center
This nonprofit center, based in Elko, Nevada celebrates the everyday traditions of people in the western United States. The site includes information about the center’s various projects and exhibits, including the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.