Society for Folk Life Studies

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Founded September 1961, ‘The Society aims to further the study of traditional ways of life in Great Britain and Ireland and to provide a common meeting point for the many institutions engaged with the various aspects of the subject’. The movement towards the founding of folk museums and folk life programmes in Britain was already taking shape in the 1930s, heavily influenced by Scandinavian models, and the need for a society and a journal was apparent, but the intervention of the Second World War postponed further development. The relatively short-lived journal Gwerin, launched in 1956, proved a useful focal point, and by the early 1960s a sufficient interest had been aroused for action to be taken. The Society holds an annual conference, in a different location each year, and its journal Folk Life was launched in 1963 and continues its annual publication. Folk life studies in Britain and Ireland have been primarily concerned with the physical aspects of traditional life, and the Society's main membership and audience have been drawn from museum professionals. Past President Trefor Owen, writing in 1981 on its 18th birthday, commented that the Society (as seen through the pages of its journal) had not been particularly argumentative or controversial, but had been more concerned with solid descriptive scholarship rather than with the discussion of theoretical issues. This remains largely true, and many would regard this as one of the field's major strengths.

Iowerth C. Peate, Folk Life 1 (1963), 3–4;Alexander Fenton, Folk Life 11 (1973), 5–14;Trefor M. Owen, Folk Life 19 (1981), 5–16.

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