UNESCO and the Preservation and Protection of Folklore

UNESCO Courier, April 1985 | Go to article overview

UNESCO and the Preservation and Protection of Folklore


ACTIVITIES for the safeguarding of folklore were included in Unesco's Programme in 1973 as the result o a communication from the Government of Bolivia asking that consideration might be given to the possibility of drawing up a Protocol to the Universal Copyright Convention which would govern "the conservation, the promotion and the diffusion of folklore".

Following a number of preliminary studies and exchanges of views with the Committees set up by the International Copyright Conventions (the Universal Convention and the Berne Convention) in order to determine the extent to which the protection of folklore might involve copyright, Unesco embarked on a global study of the protection of folklore which, if it is to be complete, requires an interdisciplinary effort, and on a study of the "intellectual property" aspects involved. The latter is being carried out jointly with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The comprehensive study of the protection of folklore was begun in 1981 when a questionnaire was sent out to Unesco Member States. Then, in February 1982, a Committee of Governmental Experts met at Unesco headquarters in Paris; it did not reach a consensus on the definition of folklore but invited Unesco to continue its work aimed at formulating general regulations concerning the safeguarding of folklore.

In January 1985 a second Committee of Governmental Experts met at Unesco headquaters to study the possible range and scope of such regulations. In its conclusions the Committee proposed that folklore (in a broader sense, traditional and popular folk culture) is a group-oriented and tradition-based creation of groups or individuals reflecting the expectations of the community as an adequate expression of its cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means. Its forms include, among others, language, literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, customs, handicrafts, architecture and other arts."

Concerning the identification of folklore, the Committee considered it advisable that systems should be set up to collect and record its various manifestations, and to co-ordinate the classification systems used by different institutions.

The Committee also concluded that the conservation of documentation regarding folk traditions calls for the establishment of a network of archives, the standardization of archiving methods and the creation of museums where folklore would be represented.

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