On Saturday 19 March 2005, the University of Leeds hosted a one-day conference entitled Dialect and Folk Life Studies in Britain: The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture in its Context. The conference was intended to celebrate the launch of an on-line catalogue of the archive but it also marked the end of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project to make the collection accessible for the first time for many years.
The material in the archive consists of the archives of the former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies, part of the University of Leeds from October 1964 to September 1983, and dialect-related materials, which predate the establishment of the Institute.
The earliest materials in the Archive came through Harold Orton, a dialectologist who came to Leeds after having worked in the field of English dialects at Newcastle and Sheffield Universities. Orton is most well known for his work on the Survey of English Dialects (SED), which he established in collaboration with Swiss colleague Eugen Dieth.
Papers delivered at the conference discussed various aspects relating to the collection, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of dialect and folk life resources in Britain, and individual case studies introducing approaches to the arrangement and (electronic) description of multiple media dialect and folk life archives. Speakers included representatives from the Archives of the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh), the Elphinstone Institute (University of Aberdeen), the Museum of Welsh Life, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, the British Library, and the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (University of Sheffield), as well as representatives from the former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies, and the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture.
The LAVC catalogue and related web pages including the conference papers are now available at www.leeds.ac.uk/english/activities/lavc/.
There is certainly some interesting material relating to folk drama in the catalogue, but our webmaster’s view is that the website is slow and cumbersome and poorly structured. But at least the material is accessible for the first time in more than twenty years.