Archive for the Month »October, 2010«

Going beyond database utopias: Principles and practices for community folklore archives

October 5, 2010  Published by

Folklore archives  -often thought of as the dusty preserves of scholars, eccentrics, and governments- become different avatars altogether if they are constructed, shared, housed, and kept retrievable within the native contexts of the communities.   As community spaces, folklore archives shelter possibilities to influence and shape the social histories of communities, aid self reflexivity, and propel economic development. Drawing on National Folklore Support Centre’s experience of establishing  six digital community folklore archives across India I would like to share a set of principles and practices we have arrived at. They can be broadly categorized into four groups and they can be summarized as below:

  1. Documentation
  • The choices for the materials to be documented need to be arrived at through community  consensus.
  • At least two versions of the same folklore item needs to be documented
  • Visual literacy workshops with the communities need to be conducted prior to the use of photography and video.
  • There should be a negotiation between the insiders and the outsiders on the comprehensibility of the documentation proposed and undertaken.
  • Members of the community need to participate in the documentation as fair and equal partners.
  • The integrity of the documented information needs to be verified with diverse groups inside the community. Even contradictory and opposing voices need to be recorded.

II Description and archiving of documented materials

  • The digital records need to be described in the native languages of the communities
  • Language documentation needs to be an integral part of archive building processes
  • Publication of multi lingual dictionaries need to be undertaken and their usages should be explained to the communities.
  • The relations in the ‘relational database’ of the archives need to follow the sensorial and everyday experiences of the insiders. This point is the key to the establishment of community archives and we have not fully achieved this goal yet.
  • Use of computer aided tools such as visual thesaurus and mind mapping should be used for arriving at the experiential relation between the documented materials.

III Interpreting documents

  • Repeated projection of documented materials to the communities should be the chief method for interpreting the documented materials.
  • Stray and other meta folklore emerging out of the responses to the documented materials need to be in turn, documented.
  • Structured interviews and questionnaires should be avoided. Intimate conversations carried over a fairly long period should be used for interpreting the archival records.

IV Public dissemination

  • Archival materials should be collected together as community resources before they can be circulated back to the communities.
  • Whether it is an edited video, or photo album the processes of editing, describing, and the methods of dissemination should have the participation of the community members.
  • The dissemination through the online channels and other media outlets should aim towards carving out a cultural space for the communities.
  • The primary audience for archival material should be the communities themselves