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Maine Folklife Center

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Are you interested in the vernacular arts and culture of Maine and the Maritime Provinces?  Then this is the place for you!  Through its over 50 year history, the Maine Folklife Center (MFC) has been the main state repository for folklore and oral history projects.  Our collection covers many fascinating areas of people’s history, identity, and lives in the Maine and the Maritime Provinces.  Interested in logging, lumbering, fishing, or mill work?  We’ve got that.  Interested in traditional food, music, or art?  Got that too.  What about Wabanaki culture?  Got it.  Ditto with information on community histories, legends, women’s experiences, Maine’s multi-ethnic culture, labor history, tourism, hunting, and many others.  In fact, if your ancestors are from Maine, we may even have an interview with them on file.

You can check us out online (here or at our Digitial Commons site), come in and visit us in person, or attend one of our public events like the Folk and Traditional Arts section of the American Folk Festival.  Or do all three!


Breaking News:  The Maine Folklife Center is now offering a Folklore Minor!

University of Maine Interdisciplinary Folklore Minor

The University of Maine is uniquely situated to provide students with an interdisciplinary approach to understanding traditional beliefs, customs, and expressions. Not only does the University sit at the border of two countries, but it is rich in folklore from occupational groups such as loggers and fishermen, boat builders and mill workers, and hosts four Native American tribes as well as several immigrant communities. Moreover, the University of Maine is the home of the Maine Folklife Center—an internationally recognized collection of regional folklore with close ties to the American Folklife Center and Canadian folklore organizations.  Finally, there is a core group of faculty in multiple disciplines who include folklore in their curriculum providing a rich array of existing courses that provide the basis for the minor. While it is possible to complete a minor in anthropology alone, we encourage students to fulfill the course requirements from other disciplines as well.

Folklore focuses on the study of society, past or present, and uses a variety of methodologies drawn from the humanities and social sciences to understand them. To concentrate on a society’s folklore (at regional as well as national levels) is to understand its traditional self-definition through its myths, epics, ballads, folktales, legends, beliefs, and other cultural phenomena, including music, song, and dance. Studying a group’s folklore shows how it identifies itself in relation to other groups. Inherently interdisciplinary, the study of folklore and mythology often draws resources from several disciplines, while maintaining its own methodological lens.


18 credits (six 3-credit classes with 2.0 cumulative GPA)

1. Required Courses (9 credits):

ANT 221 Introduction to Folklore

ANT 102 Diversity of Cultures

ANT 425 – Oral History and Folklore: Fieldwork (now Interviewing Methods)

2. 6 credits must come from the following list:

ANT 426 – Native American Folklore

ANT 431 – Folklore, the Environment, and Public Policy

ANT 422 – Folklore of Maine and The Maritime Provinces

ANT 423 – Folksong

ANT 424 – Narrative

CMJ 106 – Oral communication of storytelling, prose and poetry

FAS 250 – The Acadian Experience

JST 203 – Jewish History and Culture Middle Ages to 1750

JST204 – Jewish History and Culture II: The Jews and Europe, 1750-1948

NAS 102 – Introduction to Wabanaki Culture

ENG 129 – African American Literature

ENG 442 – Native American Literature

ENG 229 and 429 Topics – Robin Hood, Arthurian Literature, Fairy Tales

ENG 131 – The Nature of Story

ENG 170 – Foundations in Literary Analysis

ENG 435 – The Bible and Near Eastern Literature

ENG 451 – Medieval English

WST 371 – Immigration, Women and Society

WST 235 – Franco American Women’s Experience

HTY 211 – Maine and the Sea

MES 101 – Introduction to Maine Studies

MES 201 – The Maine Coast

MES 498 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity

MES 498 – Doing Nearby History and Folklore in the Classroom

MES 498 – Topics in Maine Studies

*Other courses require committee approval

(Pauleena MacDougall, Sarah Harlan-Haughey)

3. Students must complete either 1) a folklore-related senior project in their home major, 2) a mentored folklore senior project, 3) a for-credit internship in a folklore related field (using ANT 497 Independent study).


Just for fun:

Hear our founder, Edward D. “Sandy” Ives, sing or order his CD “Folk Songs of Maine” on the Smithsonian Folkways website.


Penobscot Language Dictionary

View the National Endowment for the Humanities press release of the project.

The Maine Folklife Center is proud to announce that it is part of a three year project in partnership with the Penobscot Nation and American Philosophical Society (APS) “to create a comprehensive printed version of the Penobscot Dictionary, complete with an English index and searchable online database.”

The UMain press release states: “The project, which was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of $339,411, aims to provide resources and linguistic training to the Penobscot Nation’s language revitalization community, which aims to keep the language alive and in use, through the creation of the language’s first published comprehensive dictionary.

“I think it is important for the university to reach out to communities, aiding their cultural efforts, and in particular to the Penobscots, who are our neighbors,” Pauleena MacDougall, director of the Maine Folklife Center and faculty associate in anthropology at UMaine, says. …

Co-principal investigators MacDougall and Conor Quinn, a linguist who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2006, and a project advisory committee will oversee the compilation and implementation of the dictionary. MacDougall and Quinn … have extensive backgrounds working with the Penobscot language. …

“It’s going to be a constant interaction,” MacDougall says. “We’re going to be meeting with the Penobscots regularly and hopefully provide them with resources for their language program as we prepare the dictionary for publication.” …

The project, which will take place from September 2013 through August 2016, will start by archiving the original dictionary in database form and providing linguistic training. By the second year, researchers hope to edit and add entries, continue training and user-test the database. By the third year, the group hopes to have a final version of the dictionary ready for printing.

Read the full press release “In Their Words” by Elyse Kahl.

We also thought we’d use this opportunity to share links to two very informative website about endangered languages: and


Digital Commons

We hope you will check out our new publications and exhibits website: Digital Commons.  We’ve migrated the Maine Song and Story Sampler to UMaine’s Digitial Commons website.  Though still available on this website, we think you will enjoy the Maine and Story Sampler on the Digital Commons site even better.  It has an attractive design and is very easy to use.  You can search the sampler with keywords or browse through it by song or story title, artist, or collector.  We are also putting some of Dr. MacDougall’s publications on the Digital Commons site, like her newest article, “Oral History, Working Class Culture, and Local Control: A Case Study from Brewer, Maine.”

DigitalCommons at UMaine provides access to the scholarly, educational, and creative works of the University of Maine community. It is coordinated by Raymond H. Fogler Library and is supported by the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, the College of Education and Human Development, the Honors College, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Lifelong Learning.


We’re being talked about!

The Maine Folklife Center has had a lot written and published about it recently, so we wanted to share the articles with you in case you missed any of them.

Maine Alumni Magazine Winter 2013 (pp. 06)

Maine Archives and Museums Newsletter Vol. 16, No. 1 (pp. 11)

Digital Commons: DC Telegraph February 28, 2013

Pauleena and Katrina were also on “Talk Of The Towns (Community Topics with Ron Beard)” on Friday March 8 on WERU .  If you missed it, you can listen to the broadcast here.


Library of Congress and the Maine Folklife Center: The Digitization Project

A new collaboration between the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center and the University of Maine will preserve all the original recordings, transcripts and photographs from the Northeast Archives. That collection, the entire holdings of the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, is part of UMaine’s Folklife Center.

The library will acquire the entire collection, preserve it at its state-of-the art facilities and serve it online and in person to researchers from around the world.  Copies in digital form will remain accessible at UMaine’s Maine Folklife Center.

Currently, we are over half way done scanning our photograph collection, which we do as TIFF files, and a third of the way through our paper collection (transcripts, index logs, field notes, etc.), which we do as searchable PDFs.  We have sent off shipments of audio to be digitized by George Blood Audio and Video in Philadelphia and are preparing more to be sent down.  We are also working on completing the necessary metadata (data about data) records to make the digital records complete, usable, and sustainable.

Graduate Assistant Josh presenting about the digitization project at the Maine Archives and Museums (MAM) conference at University of Maine, Orono on October 26, 2012.

We are available to consult with other organizations who are interested in digitizing their collections as well as assist private individuals who want CD/DVD copies of their music or video collections (reel-to-reel, VHS, audio cassette, vinyl) made.

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Contact Information

Maine Folklife Center
5773 South Stevens, Room 112B
Orono, Maine 04469-5773
Phone: (207) 581-1891 | Fax: (207) 581-1823E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System