Folklife Surveys and the Survey Form

Folklife surveys are conducted, often by state folk arts programs or other arts and culture organizations, to seek out traditional artists and other cultural practitioners to participate in their programs. In the context of folklife surveys, researchers document artists through interviews, fieldnotes, photography, and audio or video recording. The Folklife Survey Form can be adapted and used during the fieldwork process. The form enables fieldworkers to gather basic information about individuals in a simple, straightforward manner. Once completed, survey forms can be deposited for archiving with the organization sponsoring the survey. The data on the form can also be transferred to a database for further use.

Fieldworkers seeking to apply more sophisticated research methodology should read Folklife and Fieldwork: A Layman's Introduction to Field Techniques by the American Folklife Center. Teachers using fieldwork with students should refer to Louisiana Voices Fieldwork Basics Overview which includes a simpler Louisiana Voices Folklife Interview Survey Form for students.

Using the Survey Form

The survey form helps fieldworkers gather specific information. Recording interviews is recommended, when possible. Any additional notes resulting from fieldwork can be recorded on the back of the survey form or in a separate fieldwork notebook, which can be submitted along with the survey form. It is helpful to complete as much of the survey form as possible. For guidance on presenting questions on the survey form to your interview subject(s) or for gathering additional information during your interview, please refer to the summaries below.

Individual Identification

It is important to gather as much contact information as possible from fieldwork subjects. Doing this enables sponsoring organizations to keep artists and tradition bearers informed of opportunities available to them, and provides researchers with potential interview subjects related to their research goals (see section titled, "Release Form," for further details). While most of the information in this portion of the survey may appear straightforwrd, keep in mind that cultural and/or ethnic identifcation can be a sensitive topic for some. Allow the interview subject to name the primary culture or ethnicity that he or she identifies with most. One way to elicit this information is to read to the interviewee a list of ethnicities, such as African American, African French, Anglo-Scots-Irish, Arab American, Cajun, Creole, Croatian, Chinese, Czech, Filipino, French, German, Irish, Isleño, Italian, Hispanic, Hungarian, Jewish, Norwegian, Scottish, Swedish, Yugoslav, or Native American. If the interviewee indicates Native American, ask for a specific tribe if possible. Some people may identify with more than one group.

Once this portion of the survey is complete, you might want to gather more information concerning interview subjects' personal history. Suggestions for eliciting further information include asking questions about family and/or geneology, religion or occupation (if related to their art form/tradition), education, and perhaps how and where people learned their skill(s).

Traditional Skill, Performance, Art Form

One important purpose of this section is to list a genre that generally describes the interview subject's art form or tradition, while also providing a more specific representation of his or her skill. An example of this might be to fill in the checkbox next to "Music" and write "Fiddle Player," in the space provided next to "Art Form/Tradition." An interview subject may have more than one skill. In this instance, check the genre boxes that apply and list the interviewee's educational background and/or apprenticeship, along with any possible partners he or she may work with during performances. These two areas may require additional writing space. Remember that the back of the form or a fieldwork notebook can be used to record additional information, such as how and when someone learned their skill, or to list multiple performance partners with contract information. Finally, this portion allows space to record archives, collections, locations, etc. associated with available supplemental materials, such as photos or a music show or video or an art form or tradtion being performed.

Suggestions for additonal fieldwork in this area include listing the techniques and tools used by an interview subject, and providing contact information for any groups with which the artist or tradition bearer is associated. It may also be necessary to record special performance needs, such as stage lights or travel arrangements. This information can be helpful for people organizing festivals, exhibits, or other types of programs.

Release Form

This Release Form is located at the bottom of the survey. It is necessary for the interviewee to sign this form. If the form is not signed, any information gathered cannot be released, i.e., used in a publication, exhibit or other product even by the contracting organization. There is an option to keep all contact information private from researchers, festival organizers, etc. Please note that while an artist or tradition bearer may choose this option, he or she will still need to provide a signature. This Release Form only addresses the information on the survey form. Both the interviewer and interviewee must sign and date the Release Form.

Click here to download the PDF version of the Survey Form
(To download the PDF file, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Click here to download the Word version of the Survey Form. Note that you might need to adjust the formating if you want it to be one page.

Click here to download the Word version of the Survey Form with the Release section in Spanish.