Canadian researchers speak at Rylsky Folklore Institute

EDMONTON - The Rylsky Folklore Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Kyiv, invited Natalie Kononenko, Kule Chair of Ukrainian Ethnography at the University of Alberta, and her husband, Peter Holloway, member of the Ukrainian Folklore Center, to address the institute on July 26.

Prof. Kononenko described the University of Alberta folklore program and the holdings of the Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archive. The archive holds the best collection of Ukrainian material in North America and possibly anywhere outside Ukraine, she said. It includes 30,000 songs, many of which are digitized and accessible at

There are also several photo collections, including David Goberman's photographs of wooden churches in western Ukraine, which should be open to the public shortly. The archive owns the recordings of major fieldworkers such as Robert Klymasz and hopes to acquire additional major collections shortly.

A special new collection which should be online soon is the Local Culture Project. This documents the life of Ukrainian, French, German and English pioneers on the Canadian prairies. Audio and video recordings, collections of posters, almanacs, calendars and pamphlets which have not yet been digitized are being processed as rapidly as manpower permits. All non-digitized collections can be used on premises.

The Ukrainian Folklore Center also provides another Internet service, the Ukrainian Traditional Folklore website available at This is a digital folklore textbook that currently presents material culture such as traditional housing, ritual cloths (rushnyky), and Easter eggs (pysanky). This website is being expanded on a regular basis.

For his part of the presentation, Mr. Holloway spoke about digital technology and the exciting possibilities for the documentation of folk objects that it provides. Three-dimension modeling programs allow viewing of a small object, such as a pysanka, from all sides. For large objects, such as the interiors of traditional houses or churches, the program creates a panorama that allows the viewer to "move about" a room as if standing inside it. Several 3-D models are currently available at the website and more will soon be added.

While at the institute, Prof. Kononenko concluded a preliminary agreement of cooperation between the Rylsky Folklore Institute and the University of Alberta Ukrainian Folklore Center. When the agreement becomes effective, it will facilitate scholarly exchanges, allowing graduate students and senior researchers to participate in courses and field expeditions at both institutions. Joint work with digital technology is foreseen, as are joint efforts to promote knowledge of and interest in Ukrainian folklore.

Prof. Kononenko and Mr. Holloway's appearance at the Folklore Institute was part of an extended research trip which lasted the entire month of July. During their trip the two also attended the International Ballad Conference where Prof. Kononenko spoke about Ukrainian courtship ballads.

Most of their time, however, was spent on fieldwork. Prof. Kononenko and Mr. Holloway visited a number of villages, including Ploske, Berlozy and Chasnivtsi in the Chernihiv Oblast, Selychivka and Dobranychivka in the Kyiv Oblast, and Yavorivka and Velykyi Khutir in the Cherkasy Oblast. They conducted interviews and did extensive photography, including panorama shots of four village churches and three village house types.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 11, 2005, No. 37, Vol. LXXIII

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