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Survey of English Folklore


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Founded in 1955 as a new research project directed by Professor A. H. Smith, Head of the English Department at University College London, and Honorary Director of the English Place Name Survey, and funded by donations from Mrs Lake Barnett, stalwart of the Folklore Society. The Survey's objective was ‘To conduct a survey of English folklore’, on a systematic basis, ‘and to record it in an archive of folklore material’. The Survey was the first of several attempts in post-war England to provide folklore studies with a presence in a higher academic institution, although no teaching programme was planned. However, during its existence, and despite the shared institutional background at University College, and the shared key figure of Mrs Lake Barnett, relations between the Survey and the Folklore Society were strained. In her Presidential Address for 1958 (Folklore 69 (1958), 73–92) Sona Rosa Burstein took a clear side-swipe at the Survey, which was answered by Dodgson in his Museums Journal piece later in the year, and the points at issue were primarily the fate of the considerable sums of money involved, and the slowness in seeing results. In retrospect, it is clear that the University had no lasting commitment to the project and allowed it to wither as the individuals involved moved on to other interests. By the early 1960s, the Survey had faded away, and no further work was done. It must now be seen as one of the great missed opportunities of post-war folklore studies in England. The Survey's collected material can be accessed via the Folklore Society.

For other academic folklore programmes, see INSTITUTE OF DIALECT AND FOLKLIFE STUDIES, NATIONAL CENTRE FOR ENGLISH CULTURAL TRADITION.

John McNeal Dodgson, Museums Journal 58:2 (May 1958), 26–33.


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