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The Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens, which until 1966 was known as The Folklore Archive, was established in 1918, originally as an independent institution.  Its aim was “to collect, preserve and publish the memorials and records of the life and language of the Greek people.”  It was Nicolaos Politis who inspired and founded it.  He was Professor of Greek Archaeology and Mythology at the University of Athens and “father” of the discipline of Folklore in Greece.  Stilpon Kyriakidis was the first Director of the Archive. In 1926 the then Folklore Archive was placed under the aegis of the Academy of Athens.
     The Hellenic Folklore Research Centre is a repository of folk culture and expresses the national consciousness and cultural identity of Hellenism.  Besides promoting and facilitating research, it functions as a platform for the debate of theoretical and methodological issues, thereby reflecting a manifold social reality and, in particular, the academic identity of Greek folklore studies.

     The archive of the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre contains a rich collection of holdings, collected and added to since the late 19th century.  It contains a great deal of folklore material in written form, both published and unpublished.  It also holds musical recordings, photographs and film and video material that pertain to every aspect of folk culture regarding the material and spiritual life of the Greek people. 
     Today the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre is better placed than ever to promote its permanent and fundamental aims and to respond to contemporary needs that arise as a result of changes in academic thinking over time.  Such changes include contemporary academic trends that favour rapprochement and communication among the academic disciplines of folklore, ethnology and social anthropology.  Thanks to assistance afforded by various European Union programs over the past decade, the Centre is also better placed than ever to preserve and digitise its collection of valuable material.  Its physical surroundings have also been considerably upgraded, as it is now housed in an elegant Neoclassical building in the centre of Athens, the gift of the Foundation Lilian Voudouri.

     According to its Regulations the aim of the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre is, firstly, to collect folklore material of every kind and to publish it.  In particular, its aims are the same as those pursued by similar scholarly institutions in other countries, as formulated in the decree of the Folklore Conference held in Lund in 1935 (see Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, Bd/6, p. 314).  These aims are:
• To collect all published texts on folk culture, to extract any relevant information and to compile bibliographies.
• To enrich unpublished material drawn from oral tradition through fieldwork conducted by its research staff, through the institution of competitions, through the circulation of questionnaires to institutions or individuals, e.t.c.
• To preserve in their original form or in copy the texts of the Folklore Collections of the Centre.
• To classify into separate archives the folklore material so extracted, so that it is accessible to researchers by subject.
• To publish the Annual of the Centre.  This publishes studies written by researchers working at the Centre.  The Centre also publishes independent scholarly publications in the form of books, maps, records, DVDs, e.t.c.
     In the century since the founder of Greek folklore, Nicolaos Politis, embarked on the recording of the folk life and culture of Greece, a body of valuable manuscripts has gradually been built up. The Manuscript Archive consists of 7,946 mostly unpublished manuscripts containing information on a range of folklore material.  They derive from fieldwork carried out by the Centre’s Research Staff Members, by external associates of the Centre, by members of the public with a personal interest in Greek folklore and by the institution of annual competitions involving the collection of folklore material and the contribution of data by interested laypersons and professionals.  The Research Staff Members of the period, few though they were, fulfilled their various tasks.  Without technical assistance, they recorded regional Greek folk culture through interviews, recordings, photographs, film, manual recording and participant observation, often under conditions of financial and material duress.

     A Music Section was created as part of the Folklore Archive, which in 1927 absorbed the National Music Collection.  The National Music Collection was founded in 1914 (Law 432), “to preserve and collect the songs, dances and musical instruments of the Greek people.” In 1939 the Archive acquired recording equipment.  Despite the efforts of the then Director, Georgios Megas, to employ this equipment “for the recording of folk music”, because of contemporary stormy political events it was not until 1950 that it finally began to operate, when the Folklore Archive acquired a music Research Staff Member, with the result that the Centre possesses recordings dating from 1952.  Today the Archive contains about 30,000 reels and cassettes, of mainly musical material.  As part of a series of special projects, the entire recorded material is being gradually copied in digital form in the Menelaos Pallantios specially equipped studio of the Centre.

     The National Record Collection was established in the Folklore Centre in 1966, as laid down by Law 4545.  In the National Record Collection records of folk and popular music are deposited by recording companies.  Today the collection possesses about 13,000 records and CDs in duplicate and is continuously acquiring new material provided by music companies and individuals.

     In 1962, the then Director, Georgios Spyridakis, founded the Cinematographic Section for Folk Culture Topics.  This was subsequently added to by Research Staff Member Georgios Aikaterinidis.  The Archive possesses 82 films, of about 8,500 m. of folklore material recorded on 16mm film.
     Since the 1980s, Research Staff Members have been using video cameras during fieldwork and at present are also using digital cameras.  As part of its ongoing programme of reorganisation and modernisation, the Folklore Centre has embarked on converting its cinematographic material to digital form, thus making it more easily accessible. A start has been made with the 16 mm films in the collection.  Greek television has often made use of cinematographic material held in the Centre in its programmes. 

     The Museum Collection of Folklore Objects was established in 1939 and today has about 1,000 exhibits.  The Collection consists of such objects as agricultural tools, utensils, clothes, ceramic objects and musical instruments.  It has recently acquired new holdings, including the panarmonium once belonging to Constantinos Psachos and objects of folkloric interest belonging to the Hellenic Folklore Society, some of which are displayed in the Municipality of Athens Centre for Folk Art and Tradition, housed in the former residence of Angeliki Chatzimichali.

     The Centre has a rich photographic collection, of over 30,000 photographic prints and numerous negatives.  These photographs constitute part of the manuscripts produced by Research Staff Members during the course of their fieldwork.  The Photographic Archive is gradually acquiring more holdings, thanks to Research Staff Members’ fieldtrips and important donations, such as the donation of 1,600 photographs by Helen Fay Stamatis.  The electronic classification of these photographs in special picture files is but one of the special projects being currently carried out by the Archive, a process that naturally contributes to the fullest possible development of the Archive.

     The Folklore Library of the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre was founded in the very earliest years of the Folklore Archive.  It was further organized after World War II and acquisitions were generally dictated by the research interests and needs of the Centre’s Research Staff Members.
The library is a specialized scholarly non-lending library and is used chiefly by the Research Staff Members of the Centre.  It is, however, also used by scholars, postgraduate students and other researchers who may wish to consult it.  It contains about 40,000 titles, among which are rare folklore and other publications of the 19c and the early 20c.
The library is acquiring material all the time and is systematically kept up to date through purchases and donations of books, journals, offprints and other Greek or foreign publications.
Today access to the printed material of the library is also possible through an online  catalogue.

“Developing a National Documentation Centre for Popular Culture, 2004-2008”
     The action “Developing a National Documentation Centre for Popular Culture, 2004-2008” refers to the development by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of a national Centre for documentation of traditional and contemporary Greek culture as part of “Information Society” Operational Program (2004-2008). In particular, this task includes the following subtasks:

Services for the digitization of the Folklore Archive and development of infrastructure, namely hardware and software.

A.) Development of services for digitizing, processing and entering in databases of the material of the Folklore Archive of the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre.
B.) Provision and installation of:
B.1. Equipment (Hardware)
B.2. Software

In particular, during this subtask, the following were put in digital form, in accordance with the guidelines laid down by Information Society.
• 400,000 pages from the Manuscript Archive;
• 135, 000 entries from the Archive of Indexed and Classified Folklore Material;
• 11, 500 photographs;
• 1,500 hours of archive film 1/4" 7,5 ips, 3 ¾ ips and 1 7/8 ips;
• 110 hours of archive 78 rpm records.

Electronic processing of digitized folklore material.

The digitized material was checked and entered in databases by Folklore Centre personnel.

Conversion into Electronic Form of Manuscript Catalogues of Indexed and Classified Material.

During this subtask the following were digitized in accord with the guidelines laid down by Information Society.

1. Songs, 120, 000 pages of entries;
2.  Riddles, 10, 200 pages of entries;
3. Material Culture, 70, 000 pages of entries;
4. Toponyms, 13, 500 pages of entries;
5. Distichs, 15, 300 pages of entries;
6. Surnames, 10, 200 pages of entries.

Digitization of Annuals of the H.F.R.C.

     The Hellenic Folklore Research Centre publishes an Annual.  Altogether, since 1939, when the first volume was published, 29 volumes have been published, making a total of about 10, 300 pages.  The Annuals contain the following material:

• Reports on fieldwork projects undertaken by research personnel of the Centre for the collection of folklore material, carried out in various areas of Greece.
• Studies written by research personnel of the Centre and associates.
• Systematic bibliographies on folk culture.
• Reports on the activities of the Centre.

     The digitization of the Annual will facilitate its circulation. Henceforward an electronic edition of the Annual will be published which can be circulated in automated fashion in parallel with the printed version.  Furthermore, for users of the Annual who do not wish to purchase the whole volume in printed form, the electronic form will allow direct access to individual articles at no cost, by means of the Academy of Athens portal.

Developing the Application of Folk Culture Multimedia.

The application Atlas tis Ellinikis Laografias (Atlas of Greek Folklore) contains the following:

A.) Presentation of the Atlas produced in digital form by the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens that is user-friendly for a general readership and attractive to younger users familiar with digital technology.  The Atlas is a complete and comprehensive academic work by the Folklore Centre and is part of the initiative for creating a European Folklore Atlas centred around a particular range of subjects dealing with ritual fires of the yearly cycle, the wooden plough, the yoke and the iron plough.  The Atlas offers a clear picture in map form of the geographical distribution of a particular phenomenon.  It employs symbols and notes referring to the matters recorded. The technology employed makes accessible to a chiefly academic public a work planned more than forty years ago, in 1966.  It involves the collection of data on agricultural tools and ritual fires in 4,500 questionnaires. 
The notes allow the user to navigate the contents of this multi-media application.  In addition, accompanying texts by academics who have worked on the Atlas shed light on the philosophy and history behind the research. 
B.) Presentation of the traditional festal calendar, commencing with the first day of September and finishing with the end of August.  The festal customs are accompanied by selected quotations from unpublished material, in the form of texts, photographs and music from the Centre Archive and by informative academic texts covering the whole of the year.
C.) At the same time, the user may search for information in terms of the particular place referred to by the material by means of an extensive select catalogue of places about which the Folklore Centre Archive holds information.
D.) The application includes a short informative introduction referring to the history, aims and work of the Folklore Centre.  It has also been decided to include in the application the two main questionnaires employed by the Folklore Centre, so as to allow access for anybody interested in recording particular local folklore data. The two questionnaires are Zitimata Ellinikis Laographias (Greek Folklore Questions) by G.A. Megas and Paradosiakos Ylikos Vios tou Ellinikou Laou-Erotimatologio (Traditional Material Culture of the Greek People-Questionnaire) by S. D. Imellos and A. Polymerou-Kamilaki.  These two documents are the chief tools employed for folklore fieldwork by Centre researchers and for the classification of the Folklore Centre’s archive material.

Development of the Educational Application of Multimedia.

As we believe that folk tradition can motivate students into creative inspiration, we have created an educational application entitled “Travelling in Greece for Folklore Research” aiming at linking education with the treasures of folk tradition.
     The aim of this educational application is to create a link between the world of education and the treasures of folk tradition.  Use of folklore material by educators is a source of knowledge of local history and folklore and a means for inspiring school students.  This educational programme is simple and user-friendly for educators and students alike.  Furthermore, educators can use it as part of the teaching process.
    The content of the DVD consists of a tour round various selected areas, which can be visited with the help of Centre researchers.  The researchers have prepared texts on the basis of material collected during fieldwork conducted for the needs of the Centre.  The DVD is aimed at educators, school students and indeed at anybody interested.  It includes unpublished folklore material, photographs, music and video.  These concern various aspects of traditional Greek culture, such as the structure of settlements, architecture, the tasks and jobs carried out by the inhabitants, the folk calendar and related customs, occupations, social organization and the functioning of the community and forms of entertainment, such as fairs, festivals and games, fairy tales, traditions and songs.
     Centre researchers are responsible for the choice of material collected during fieldwork they have conducted as part of their academic duties.  We have included material from fieldwork in Paxoi carried out by the famous, and sorely missed, Centre researcher, Professor Dimitrios Loukatos and published in the series Piges tou Laikou Politismou (Sources for Folk Culture) (no. 1, Athens, 2000).  The criterion for the choice of places was the main fields of expertise of the Centre researchers.  Navigation through the programme is simple and easy.  It follows the steps taken by the researcher in the compilation of information on the traditional culture of a particular place, aided by systematic questionnaires, by various mechanical means of recording and by participant observation. 

Creation of Portal on Greek Folklore.

     The portal will allow the end user access to the content of the various collections of the Folklore Centre, to the Annual and to publications by the Centre.
     Publications by the Centre include studies published from 1920 up to the present day, although some are difficult to access, in view of their age, and questionnaires for the collection of folklore material that are widely employed by those collecting the evidence.
     Since the Folklore Centre is now in a position to digitize material and to enrich its digitized Archive, such material has resulted from the existence of the infrastructure created as part of the Information Society programme.

     Another outcome of the existence of this infrastructure is the association between the Centre and various regional cultural associations, which for more than a century have rendered extremely valuable service, in the context mainly of urban centres, in the collection, study and preservation of materials of traditional Greek culture.  The database that the Centre has created and communication via the portal will facilitate their work.  For example, The Educational Brotherhood of Tziourtzia, at Athamania, in the Prefecture of Trikala, Thessaly, possesses an extremely important archive, consisting of 2,600 pages of entries and created in 1893 and still functioning today. This has already been digitized. The Centre’s database contains about 6 000 associations, 1 000 of which are still active and have provided the Centre with detailed information on their history and activities.
     The portal will function as an information centre on the activities of the Centre, whilst also developing means for communication and the exchange of views.

     Tradition is handed down from one generation to the next and becomes incorporated in social memory by means of various socialization mechanisms.  These include education, entertainment and the dissemination of information and incorporation into private and public space.  Tradition is not a romantic return to the past, as is sometimes believed.  Instead, it is slowly, but steadily enriched by technology and by “higher” culture.  The slow process by which new and modern elements became incorporated into traditional culture has ensured that small spatial units and common basic features in the past have survived, reflecting in the process their subordination to nature and restrictions imposed by necessity.  New traits and influences have become incorporated into cultural units founded in specific historical and geographical contexts.  Thus various activities have acquired and maintained a distinct cultural identity over long periods.  This continuity, however, has suffered considerably because of globalization.  Yet, it is to be hoped that the integration of technological achievements into the body of tradition and the maintenance of features promoting humanistic and eternal traditional values will restore a certain equilibrium.  This balance has been shaken by the proliferation of a variety of heterogeneous cultural elements, brought together thanks to ease of communication in the area of traditional cultures.

     These ideas concerning the value of tradition have been a source of inspiration.  Over the past ten years the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens has used information technology to create a collaborative network, mainly at the national, although also at the international level.  The aim of this network is to support, as far as possible, the values that have been the backbone of traditional Greek culture.  Among other things, the Folklore Centre organized the exhibition In Praise of the Olive (Elaias Enkomion), held in the premises of the Academy of Athens during the Olympic Games of 2004.  This exhibition also appeared in many cities and towns of Greece and in New York, in the United Nations Building (September-October 2007) when Greece assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.  The Research Centre has also created themed museums, such as the Bread Museum (Mouseio tou Artou) at Amphikleia of Phthiotis, the Museum of the Acritans of Europe (Mouseio ton Akriton tis Evropis) at Palaiochora, Chania, and the Museum of the Olive (Mouseio tis Elias) at Kapsaliana of Rethymnon, Crete.  The Centre has also promoted collaboration with the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations in Marseilles.  It is in the process of organizing the 15th International Congress of Folk Narrative Research, to be held in Athens in June 2009.  Finally, it has embarked on the creation of a large museum to contain material on areas and issues shared by various cultures.

     The Hellenic Folklore Research Centre has digitized most of its archival material and has created an infrastructure to continue the process in the future.  By means of its portal it is now connected to other academic institutions in Greece and abroad, which share the aim of preserving and employing the cultural heritage of various peoples as a natural and substantial background towards the creation of truly globalised values relevant to all humans.

Aikaterini Polymerou-Kamilaki, Director, H.F.R.C.

Evangelos Karamanes, Researcher, H.F.R.C.

Organization of material:
Evangelos Karamanes,
Paraskevas Potiropoulos

Vassiliki Chryssanthopoulou, Researcher, H.F.R.C.