Checklist for Folklife Project Planning

I. Goals/Mission Statement

  1. Project topic
  2. Why do this project? What are the desired outcomes?
  3. Resulting Products and/or contracted Deliverables
  4. Audience

II. Preliminary Research

  1. Research existing sources
  2. Community members/local experts to be consulted for background
  3. With whom should the project be cleared? Obtain any rerequisite permission or clearance.
  4. Identify potential partners

III. Personnel

  1. Who will be involved?
  2. What tasks will they do?
  3. Is any expertise lacking?

IV. Project Scope

1. Define boundaries of project:

  • Geographic area
  • Community or culutre(s)
  • Historical period of study
  • Specific topics
  • Specific genres
  • Duration of project

V. Documentation Methods

1. Sound recording

  • Interviews
  • Processes/performances

2. Video recording

  • Interviews
  • Processes/performances

3. Photography (digital)

  • Measured drawings of large objects -- buildings, boats, etc.
  • Collecting or borrowing artifacts
  • Copying historic or family photos
  • Survey or data forms
  • Release forms
  • Other

VI. Processing and Preserving Materials

  1. Where will materials be stored?
  2. How stored?
  3. How processed?
  4. By whom?
  5. Back-up copies of all media files and text documents

VII. Equipment and Supplies

1. List equipment/supplies you already have and those you must acquire


  • Audio recorder
  • Microphone
  • Video recorder
  • Headphones
  • Camera(s)/lenses/flash
  • Tripod
  • Copystand/lights
  • Computer/laptop/printer/software for photography, audio, or film processing and editing
  • Transcription software
  • Other equipment


  • Media cards for camera, audio recorder, of film recorder. Note: a separate card should be used for each function; it is not recommended to use media cards interchangeably among different types of equipment
  • Extra media card for each piece of equipment
  • Batteries/rechargeable batteries and charger, plus exra batteries; where equipment has its own rechargeable battery packs, be sure to carry an extra rechargeable battery
  • Cables, adapters, and AC cords
  • Survey or data forms and release forms, where applicable
  • Business cards for self and employer, if applicable
  • If working on contract for employer, brochures, letter of introduction, or other information about organization or business
  • Brief, concise project description (usually one page) for outreach
  • Clipboard
  • Archiving supplies:
    • discs, jump drives, or external drives for duplicates of all media and text materials
    • disc or drive storage
    • file folders
    • storage for business cards and other emphermera collected

VIII. Timeline

1. Time varies, depending on:

  • Familiarity with area
  • Scope
  • Product and/or contracted deliverables
  • Personnel resources
  • Deadline imposed by outside entity as well as informants' and fieldworker's schedules and commitments

2. Fact: 6 hours transcribing per 1 hour interview

3. Fact: Everything takes longer than you think it will


IX. Budget

1. Consider all costs, e.g.:

  • Transportation, including to fieldsite, where applicable
  • Lodging and per diem, where applicable
  • Photocopying/fax
  • Postage
  • Telephone or internet access fees
  • Equipment/supplies
  • Salaries or honoraria, where applicable
  • Courtesy copies of media materials
  • Costs associated with product/deliverables

X. Funding

  1. Identify funding sources
  2. Apply for funding
  3. Locate support, including matching, cash, in-kind, or donations

Excerpted from: Eff, Elaine, (ed.). "You should have been here yesterday": A Guide to Cultural Documentation in Maryland. Crownsville, MD: The Maryland Historical Trust Press, 1995, pp. 28-33. (To order, make checks payable to MHT Press and send to Maryland Historical Trust Press, PO Box 500, Crownsville, MD 21032. $10 plus $2.50 postage and handling, 410/514-7600). Adapted and updated by the Louisiana Folklife Program and Laura Marcus Green, 2013.