LV Latviski

Kas lepneibai pakaļ dzanās, tys viejam leidza skrīn. (LFK 1252, 108)


The Cabinet of Folksongs

Krišjānis Barons started work at the edition of Latvian folksongs in 1878. The collected song texts were sent to him to be organised according to the developed principles of the edition. This piece of furniture widely known in Latvia by the name of Dainu skapis was made in 1880, in Moscow, according to the draft created by the editor — Krišjānis Barons — himself. The cabinet became necessary with the influx of contributions and growth of the number of texts to be processed, so the cigarette-paper boxes used previously grew too inconvenient in handling this. In 1893, when the number of received texts approached 150,000, Barons himself, his work and the tool returned to Latvia. But that was not the only travel this cabinet had to endure, as later it had travelled quite a few times more. In the course of time it was transformed from a practical item and editor’s tool into symbol of Latvian national culture. Since 1940 the unique original Dainu skapis is in the holdings of the Archives of Latvian Folklore. The manuscripts it contains were microfilmed in 1940s, then scanned into separate files at the turn of millennia. There are two copies of the cabinet kept at two different museums.

In 2014 the Cabinet along with other holdings of the ALF moved to the National Library of Latvia and now is on display on the fifth floor there.

The number of texts used or included in the edition “Latvju Dainas” as given by Krišjānis Barons is comparatively widely known — it is 217,996. The opinions regarding the exactness of this number differ, but whatever the number, all of these songs must be in here — inside these 70 drawers with 20 sections each. Besides the song text drawers there are also three larger ones, with valuable documents of great interest for the researchers can be found, those being first and foremost the letters sent to the editor. Though the greatest value of the Dainu skapis is its contents, still the cabinet itself has become a symbol in its own right. It is not without a reason that the cabinet has two replicas, kept in two symbolic locations: a the Barons museum in Rīga, situated in the apartment Krišjānis Barons spent the last years of his life, while the other — in the former manor house of Stankevich family in Russia, Mukhouderovka village, where Barons started the work at the songs.

Until recently the content of the Cabinet has only had one copy — the microfilms kept at the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts of the National Library of Latvia. According to the accompanying documents, there 516 films, with some 20 text slips pictured in each frame. Still there are some aspects that still need clarification. The original document accompanying the archive box mentions 523 such films, which means that the set may have become incomplete at some point in time.

Between 1998 and 2006 the contents of the cabinet were scanned (each slip into a separate file), the song texts have been transcribed into machine readable form, thus allowing the material to be accessed at

Since 4 September 2001 Dainu skapis is part of the world culture — on this date it was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World list.

Photo: Didzis Grodzs

Last time modified: 10.08.2017 10:00:31