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Stephanie Hall, Collections Specialist, American Folklife Center
Created: July 19, 2021
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
The American Folklife Center (AFC) produces guides for the purpose of directing users to resources and collections in support of research on a range of topics connected to folklife, cultural heritage, and ethnographic documentation.
This guide is part of a series of topical guides focusing on "areas of distinction" within AFC collections, as articulated in the Center's Collection Policy Statement. These topical guides are intended to be curated access points for AFC's rich resources, rather than comprehensive of definitive listings.
This guide provides an introduction to doing research on the topics of narrative and verbal arts using American Folklife Center collections. The Collection Policy Statement for the American Folklife Center identifies narrative and verbal arts as an area of distinction for our collections, noting:
Narrative and Verbal Arts encompass a wide range of genres including stories, myths, legends, jokes, fan literature, memes, proverbs, folk poetry, and cowboy poetry, as well as premier collections of American English regional dialects, plus collections of Gullah (Sea Islands Creole), Caribbean, and French-based Creole dialects.
Many American Folklife Center collections include documentation of narrative and verbal arts, sometimes collected by ethnographers with a specific goal of collecting verbal arts and sometimes in broader ethnographic studies documenting various traditions and lore. Traditional stories and vernacular poetry are of interest to, and collected by, folklorists, anthropologists, linguists, and others. Written, as well as spoken forms of traditional verbal arts may be found in the collections, such as autograph albums and Brazilian chapbooks.
The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.