LV Latviski

Kur nava gruomotu, tur nava nikaidys gudreibys. (LFK 1263, 1051)


The Archives of Latvian Folklore (LFK) were founded in December 2, 1924, following the initiative of Anna Bērzkalne (1891–1956), a folklorist and school teacher. Initially LFK was affiliated to the Ministry of Education. The daily activities of the Archives were organized by the Head, while a particular Board was established to decide general issues. The leader of the board was the well known Latvian linguist Jānis Endzelīns.

Since Anna Bērzkalne was a student of the outstanding Estonian professor Walter Anderson, the establishment of LFK was based on the internationally recognized principles — the experience in archive work she has obtained not only in Estonia, but also in Finland, Denmark and Germany.

The name and affiliation of the institution have changed several times over the years. In 1945 LFK was reformed into the Institute of Folklore and taken over by the University of Latvia. In 1946 it became a part of the newly-formed Academy of Sciences. In 1950 the Institute of Folklore and Ethnography was formed, which in 1956 was again divided into two departments — that of folklore and that of ethnography, with the first joining the Institute of Language and Literature, the other — the Institute of History. In 1992 the historical name of LFK (Latviešu folkloras krātuve) was restored, and now it is a department within the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia.

Collecting folklore

In the first years LFK received materials collected before its foundation: the Children song collection, obtained by means of questionnaires (42,358 items); the Barons Society collection (33,416 items), as well as folklore collections, delivered by both individual collectors and institutions.

At the beginning of 1940′s LFK received several manuscripts of exceptional value from the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century: the Dainu skapis, the collection of Rīga Latvian Association (84,566 items) and manuscripts of folk-tale and legend collector Anss Lerhis-Puškaitis.

Collecting has been carried out continuously, even during the years of WWII, when LFK organized expeditions to different regions of Latvia. In the years of Soviet rule an ideology-based requirement to collect the so called soviet folklore was posed upon the folklorists. Still, although dealing with this requirement, folklorists also managed to collect valuable material.

The main form of folklore collection has always been a field-work expedition. From 1947 to 2004 50 folklore expeditions have taken place. Nearly every staff member of LFK has his or her own registered collection. LFK holds the largest collection of folk-music material, gathered by outstanding ethnomusicologists. The Archives also contain the folklore collections, delivered by many well known people, working in different areas of Latvian culture: linguistics, literature, history, archeology etc.

Already in the first years of its activities LFK started to use technical devices in folklore collection. In 1926 three sound recording devices — phonographs were purchased. The purpose of those was to facilitate the recording of melodies during the fieldwork. The recordings, made by LFK employees, were later transcribed into notation by a specialist of music. For the last time phonograph was used in 1947. In 1998 with the help of the Viennese Phonogrammarchiv all the reels (191) were re-recorded onto DAT cassettes, enabling the access to the recorded sounds. From 1951 till 1970’s sound recordings were made on magnetic tapes of different length. Their total number today is 197. At the end of 1970’s folklorists started using radio-cassette-recorders, thus until now a great number of cassettes have been recorded, as well.

The Archives’ collections also contain ethnographic drawings and photographs, featuring various household items, architectural details and structures as a whole, property marks, some maps, charts, as well as ornamental designs for embroidery and knitting. The first 46 photographs are found in the note book of Emilis Melngailis (1874-1954). They were taken over the time period 1921 through 1931.Beginning with 1950 the number of photographs grew rapidly; the prints are not glued onto the pages of manuscripts, but gathered in special albums. Many pictures have been taken by folklorists, of which remarkable are those by Alma Ancelāne, a researcher of folk legends. Also some professional photographers have contributed to the archives, working during the expeditions along with the folklorists.

The first VHS video recording of informants was made during the concert in 1986. At that time it was done by a professional film operator from outside LFK. Only in 1992 the Archives acquired its first camera and started filming, still the total length of recordings now exceed 220 hours.


Since the very first days of LFK it has fostered research as well. In 1920’s–1940’s important achievements in this area were Anna Bērzkalne’s historic-geographic studies of folksong texts (published in Folklore Fellows’ Communications series), studies of Latvian mythology and historical facts in folklore by Pēteris Šmits, studies of spells, magic and customs by Kārlis Straubergs to name but a few.

In 1950′s-1970′s the study of folklore mainly from the generic, poetic and comparative perspective took place. There are several researchers to be mentioned among the leading ones of the period: Alma Ancelāne, who studied riddles and legends, Vilma Greble, specialist of children folklore, ethnomusicologist Jēkabs Vītoliņš, researcher of proverbs and sayings Elza Kokare, ethnochoreographer Harijs Sūna, historians of folkloristics and researchers of narrative folklore Kārlis Arājs and Ojārs Ambainis, experts in the field of folksongs Jānis Rozenbergs, Rita Drīzule, Jadviga Darbiniece, Maija Ligere. International recognition was received for the Latvian folk-tale type index compiled by Alma Medne and Kārlis Arājs, as well as for the comparative proverb studies by Elza Kokare and scholarly activities of Jēkabs Vītoliņš and Harijs Sūna.

In the second half of 1980′s structural and semiotic methods were introduced in research performed at LFK by Beatrise Reidzāne, Guntis Pakalns, Benedikta Mežale, Dace Bula. In 1990′s completely new directions are discovered, turning to the role of traditions in modern culture and everyday life and to the contextual study of folklore. Along with the traditional folklore also modern legends, ghost stories and memory albums became the objects for research.

Last time modified: 12.09.2016 13:22:58