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Anthropology professor emeritus donates large folklore collection

Timothy J. Kloberdanz, professor emeritus of anthropology, recently donated about 10,745 individual folklore items to NDSU’s Institute for Regional Studies. All of the folklore was collected by Kloberdanz and hundreds of his anthropology students during a period of more than 30 years (1977-2010).

Items in the collection include a wide variety of folklore genres: anecdotes, blizzard stories, riddles, humorous narratives, folk beliefs, folk expressions, proverbs, holiday customs, folk medicine, weatherlore, folk art, folk crafts, traditional foods and recipes, family folklore, hunting/fishing/trapping lore and many other categories.

“The folklore is mostly regional,” says Kloberdanz, “and it serves as a wonderful resource for scholars, students, writers and anyone else who wants to get an up-close look at everyday life and traditional culture. It does not take long for someone to run across items that are familiar. In the past, when I shared some of this folklore in class, there were howls of delight and laughter. But at other times, there were tears and periods of absolute silence. This is the power of folklore. It can make us laugh or weep. But inevitably, it always makes us think deeply about ourselves and what it means to be human.”

The official name of the large body of material is the “Folklore Collection of Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz and His NDSU Students.” Currently, it is housed at the NDSU Institute for Regional Studies in the Skills and Technology Training Center northeast of the main campus. In recent years, as Kloberdanz organized and processed the collection, he was assisted by several graduate students, including Paul Emch and Ben Hoffman. Financial assistance was provided by the Institute for Regional Studies and the Gunlogson Fund.

Some of the material in the collection was published recently in the book, “Sundogs and Sunflowers: Folklore and Folk Art of the Northern Great Plains,” compiled by Kloberdanz and NDSU alumnus Troyd A. Geist.

“Our new book runs 350 pages and weighs about five pounds,” says Kloberdanz. “It includes more than 1,000 examples of prairie folklore. Yet despite its size, the book represents less than 10 percent of everything in the folklore collection that has been donated to NDSU.”

John Bye, director of the Institute for Regional Studies and university archivist, describes Kloberdanz’s folklore donation as “monumental.” He adds, “I foresee great use of the collection.”

The folklore collection is accessible to researchers and the general public. For additional information, contact the Institute for Regional Studies at 1-8914.

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