Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis

American Folklore Society and American Folklore Center. Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 1996. Available online at http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub96/pub96.pdf (accessed 18 April 2005).

In May 2001, a seminar called Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis gathered in Washington, DC to discuss the state of the recorded legacy of collections of folk materials in archives and libraries in the United States. The overwhelming need, as was determined by conference members, was the preservation of folklore-related material on degrading analog carriers. However, without a clear idea of what our users want, preservation projects would continue without “without priority, and therefore likely without funding.”

The report begins by talking about the challenge researchers face when accessing archival collections of folklore and ethno-musicological materials. There is often poor documentation and cataloging of certain collections, which makes remote access or even assessment possible to researchers with no affiliation to that archive. The section on preservation outlines current practice, best practices for storage and handling, as well as digitization, and the need for more scientific research to be carried out in the areas of audio and video preservation.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that archives face are legal in nature; pertaining especially to copyright and performance rights. In an era where content is king, archives are often restricted in their use and even hindered from preservation by current copyright laws. Unpublished manuscripts and recordings are also protected by law, and cannot be made accessible without renegotiation of legacy contracts—a seemingly impossible mission to find depositors’ and their descendants who might still hold rights. By limiting access to these materials, we are impairing the abilities of the present and future generations from making artistically-based derivatives and adaptations. At the end of the conference was a summary of actions that should be taken to preserve, promote, and provide access to these cultural documents.


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