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Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Oral Histories

 Collection
Identifier: WSOH002714
Collection consists of audio recordings of 55 interviews (or aggregations of multiple interviews on a single topic) conducted by student interviewer-collectors, some of which, owing to the broad nature of folklore research, fall outside of the strict definition of oral history (ethnography, folksong, folktale, etc.). Student field research projects cover a broad range of topics, with strengths in modern industrial and occupational folklore (union workers, nurses, ministers, miners [of coal and copper] police officers) and the ethnic diversity and work-oriented heritage of Detroit and southeastern Michigan. In 1966, the Folklore Archive merged with the University’s Archive of Ethnomusicology and as a reflection of this merger about a dozen interviews were conducted with well-known musicians such as Pete Seeger, Irwin Silber, Sippie Wallace, Arlo Guthrie (regarding his father, Woody Guthrie), Sarah Ogan Gunning, Son House, and others. Songs by several of these artists are recorded herein. Seeger and Silber are also known for their labor activism, as reflected in their music. A significant number of interviews address healthcare in a variety of ways, including mental health, folk medicine, and nursing. A portion of these interviews were conducted as part of the Kentucky Medical Project, by Ellen Stekert. African American folk traditions, culture, and daily life are well represented. Interviews with local Polish and Jewish populations are also included. Some interviews or interview collections span multiple tapes.

Dates

  • 1961 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1971

Creator

Language of Materials

Collection is predominantly in English. At least two tapes contain some Finnish. Additional languages may be present.

Access

Collection is open for research.
Patrons must make an appointment with the AV Department prior to visiting.

Use

Due to the personal nature of oral history, the Library prohibits use of the material in any way that infringes on individual right to privacy, or results in libelous statements or slander, in accordance with U.S. law.

Permission to publish or quote must be obtained from the interviewee or interviewee heirs or assigns.

Extent

5 Linear Feet ((141 tapes). ) : Includes 17 5-inch open reel tapes and 124 7-inch open reel tapes.

1.61 Gigabytes ((8 files). ) : Consists of 4 MP3s and 4 WAVs.

Abstract

The Folklore Archive, established in 1939 by WSU English professors Emlyn Gardner and Thelma James, contains the oldest and largest record of urban folk traditions in the United States. To document these traditions, Wayne State University students conducted field research projects that included oral history interviews. Collection consists of audio recordings of 55 interviews (or aggregations of multiple interviews on a single topic) conducted by student interviewer-collectors, some of which, owing to the broad nature of folklore research, fall outside of the strict definition of oral history. In 1966, the Folklore Archive merged with the University’s Archive of Ethnomusicology and about a dozen interviews involve well-known musicians. Student field research projects cover a broad range of topics, with strengths in modern industrial and occupational folklore and the ethnic diversity and work-oriented heritage of Detroit and southeastern Michigan. The musical culture of Detroit is also well represented in multiple interviews with blues and folk musicians. A significant number of interviews address healthcare in a variety of ways, including mental health, folk medicine, and nursing. African American folk traditions, culture, and daily life are well represented.

History

The Folklore Archive, established in 1939 by WSU English professors Emlyn Gardner and Thelma James, contains the oldest and largest record of urban folk traditions in the United States. To document these traditions, Wayne State University students conducted field research projects that included oral history interviews.

Arrangement

Tapes are arranged by size and there after by recording year. Exceptions include Southern Medical Beliefs, Southern Religious Beliefs, Kentucky Coal Miners, and the Kentucky Medical Project/Southern Mountain Medical Beliefs, which are grouped according to subject simularity.

Tapes are listed by the interviewer/collector name.

Other Access Aids

Consult the Folklore Archive Collection finding aid for a listing of tape contents, corresponding card file numbers, and transcripts and/or research papers.
Detailed indexes exist on site at the Reuther Library, including card files cross-referenced by collector/interviewer, interviewee, and topic. An "Ethnic/Linguistic Subject Holdings List" also exists for all languages used; this index also denotes interviews by or about women.

Acquisition

Transferred to the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in July 1999 as part of selected materials from the Wayne State University Folklore Archive by the Folklore Archive director, Professor Janet Langlois.

Other Copies

The following recordings are available online: John Hill recalls the 1913-1914 Copper Country Strike, Son House - WDTM (2 excerpts), and Sippie Wallace interview and song "T.B. Blues."

Related Materials

Transcripts, student research papers, and background and administrative materials can be found in the Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Records. Transcripts do not exist for all interviews.
Other Folklore Archive Collections, including Student Field Projects Photographs, Greek-American Family Life Oral Histories and Southern Upland Folklife in the Midwest Oral Histories.

Processing History

Processed by Margaret Raucher, Lauren Kata, and Rebecca Bizonet. Finding aid written by Rebecca Bizonet on October 5, 2016. Inventory and additional description added by Gwyn Richards on January 18, 2018.
Title
Guide to the Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Oral Histories
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Margaret Raucher, Lauren Kata, and Rebecca Bizonet.
Date
2016-10-05
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Description made possible by funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Revision Statements

  • 2016-10-05: Additional description by Rebecca Bizonet.
  • 2018-01-18: Inventory and additional description added by Gwyn Richard.

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA