The Folklore Collection

Memorial University's Queen Elizabeth II Library provides essential support for Canada's only English-language PhD level program in folklore. The library's commitment to this program has resulted in a collection of over 30,000 monographs, with over 200 journals directly focused on folklore/life and another 500 - 600 journals with relevant material. In addition, the library holds several microform and digital collections, such as the Winterthur Trade Catalogues, the Madden Ballads, e-HRAF World Cultures, Smithsonian Global Sound, Daily Life Online World Folklore and Folklife and several of the Adam Matthew Digital collections. These resources provide a variety of useful information for folklore studies.

The library began expanding its folklore/life section in the mid-1960s, when the Department of Folklore was established at Memorial University. At that time, the library was fortunate to have the invaluable assistance of the first department head, Dr. Herbert Halpert, an international scholar and bibliographer. Dr. Halpert was instrumental in both recommending and locating material on folklore for the library, and constructed an excellent bibliographic foundation for the collection. Sadly, Dr. Halpert passed away in 2000, but the library acquired his personal collection of over 10,000 folklore monographs and journals as a gift from his family. The Halpert Collection is completely catalogued and can be searched online by using the "Advanced Search" option in the Memorial University of Newfoundland Libraries' Catalogue (limit the "location" to "Halpert Collection"). The Halpert Collection is not open for browsing and items from the collection do not circulate; however, Halpert materials may be viewed at the Archives and Special Collections reading room (located immediately behind the Centre for Newfoundland Studies service desk).

The library has been fortunate also in obtaining the financial assistance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The folklore component of the library was designated a "specialized research collection" in Canada, thus eligible for grants to expand the collection parameters. To date, this extra funding has resulted in purchase of German, Italian, Spanish and Scandinavian language material, back issues of important periodicals, and several large microform research sets. The library is grateful for this past assistance from the Government of Canada.

Primarily, however, the library acquires material written in English and French. The major geographic focus is upon Newfoundland, with importance attached to Canada in particular and North America in general. Britain, Ireland and France, as historic centers of emigration to Newfoundland, also receive attention in selection of relevant material.

The vast majority of material in the library has been catalogued for open access, except in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, which restricts in-person use of its archival and/or rare collection to a reading room. Nonetheless, it is unusual to refuse interlibrary loan requests for material located in any section of the library. The library promotes this service through reporting its holdings to both national databases.

Many of the library archival resources are currently being digitized and added to the DAI (Digital Archives Initiative) for the world to explore and enjoy. Folklore researchers may be particularly interested in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory, Labrador Innu Myths and Legends, the CNS digitized book collection, or the digitized copies of the Material History Bulletin.

Access to folklore material is provided both through MUN library catalogues and through commercial reference tools such as the MLA bibliography and America: History and Life. The regional database, Atlantic Canada Newspaper Survey, is also available.

Memorial University libraries maintain their commitment to the folklore program even in times of budgetary restraint. For example, priority has been assigned to preservation of folklore materials and a decision has been made to retain any folklore journal subscription which is unique to Memorial University among libraries across Canada -- regardless of the level of use. This unique collection is of value to scholarly study both within and outside of Newfoundland, and is treated as an important resource.