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Folklore 50

Reunion to celebrate golden anniversary of storied department

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

Memorial’s Department of Folklore and its Folklore and Language Archive are celebrating a dual golden anniversary in the academic year 2018-19, culminating in a reunion celebration on Saturday, June 1.

The only Anglophone university in Canada to offer comprehensive folklore programs at all levels, the folklore department was founded by Dr. Herbert Halpert in 1968. The current department head says the 50th anniversary is a cause for celebration — and for reflection.

“As folklorists, we’re keenly aware of the legacy that has been entrusted to us,” said Dr. Holly Everett. “We’re indebted to the work of those who came before us: the students, staff, archivists and professors who together built an amazing foundation from which to document, preserve, investigate and analyze day-to-day life in this province and beyond. We look forward to seeing everyone and catching up!”

Some items in the Department of Folklore’s collection.
Photo: Ehsan Mohammadi

Graduates from Memorial’s folklore department have gone on to illustrious careers in academia, archives, museums, the heritage sector and broadcasting, among many other areas.

Tom Power of CBC Radio’s Q is a folklore alumnus, as is Crystal Braye of the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mark Ferguson of The Rooms, acclaimed Canadian non-fiction writer Emily Urquhart and Radio Lab producer Annie McEwen.

Reunion celebration

On Saturday, June 1, at 7 p.m., Memorial folklore alumni are invited to gather with fellow folklore enthusiasts and friends to celebrate accomplishments and friendships.

Food, Stories and Songs of this Place: Celebrating 50 Years of Folklore Education in Newfoundland and Labrador will include a catered reception from Rocket Bakery, a brief address from Dr. Everett, historical displays and a performance from members of the St. John’s Storytelling Circle.

Among the performers will be Sophie Angnatok, folklore alumna Anita Best, Tama Fost and Kelly Russell.

“It is easy in this province to introduce myself as a folklorist and have most people understand what that means.” — Dale Jarvis

The host for the evening will be provincial folklorist and alumnus Dale Jarvis.

“This province was the first in Canada to have a full-time intangible cultural heritage development officer, and that position and the office I now run grew out of work that was aided and guided by faculty and staff at Memorial,” said Mr. Jarvis. “There would not be a folklorist position at Heritage N.L. if there hadn’t been a Department of Folklore to start with.

“Through my work, I constantly meet people in the heritage sector who have taken a folklore course at Memorial, or who are familiar with the idea of folklore research,” he continued. “It is easy in this province to introduce myself as a folklorist and have most people understand what that means. That’s all due to people like Dr. Halpert and the generations of folklorists and students who have gone through the department over the past 50 years who have done fieldwork in every corner of this amazing province.”

A local product inspired by N.L.’s cultural heritage.
Photo: Submitted

The 50th anniversary event will coincide with the Folklore Studies Association of Canada’s annual conference on the theme of Home, which is taking place in St. John’s for the first time in several decades.

The evening will not disappoint. Folklore alumni and friends are invited to register here.

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