Indiana State University Newsroom

Folklore Archives joins Wabash Valley Visions and Voices

October 19, 2010

The largest accessible university-based folklore archives in the Midwest is about to get more accessible.

Indiana State University's Folklore Archives, housed in the English department, has partnered with Wabash Valley Visions and Voices to make archived documents available on the Web.

"When we get the scanning done, people interested in folklore will be able to conduct research from their computers anywhere in the world," said Nan McEntire, ISU Folklore Archives director. "It's the way of the future."

"This will really expand the usefulness of the archives to folklorists and researchers around the world," said Cinda May, Wabash Valley Visions and Voices director. "We're excited to have more of our local culture to include in the digital memory project."

Ronald Baker, English professor emeritus, established the ISU Folklore Archives in 1967. At that time it consisted of a filing cabinet, a table and two chairs in Baker's office. About 30,000 items fill nine filing cabinets, while folklore journals line shelves on one wall and a conference table with chairs occupies the center of a large room in Root Hall. Each typed or handwritten piece of paper - most of it contributed by ISU students - tells of local legends, folk beliefs, customs, jokes and home remedies.

"This material is so interesting," McEntire said as she opened a filing cabinet drawer in the archives extracting legends about haunted hills, haunted furniture, life in outer space and helpful ghosts.

With assistance from the Research Center for Local History and Culture, an ISU Program of Promise created by the English and history departments with funding from the Lilly Endowment, the Folklore Archives has a scanner to make those paper originals digital.

"The neat thing is there is over three decades of work there, mostly from students," said Chris Olsen, history department chair. "It is one of the leading repositories in the Midwest."

An English department intern, who works as an archives assistant, and two student scanning project technicians will scan in some of the Wabash Valley's most famous legends. Material already accessible online includes stories about John Dillinger in the area; Stiffy Green, the dog who refused to leave his deceased master's side; lore from the coal mines; the Faceless Nun at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College; and Martin Sheets, who had a phone in his mausoleum.

In addition to scanning the archival material, the student scanning technicians learn how to add metadata to the scanned materials.

"They will be learning valuable technical and analytical skills," McEntire said.

While some material is available on Visions and Voices now, more will be added during the fall and spring semesters.

McEntire said she teaches 300 students a year. As part of their class assignments, they must go out and collect examples of folklore, which then is added to the Folklore Archives.

"Much of it is of very high quality," she said.

The discipline of folklore will be featured this fall at Indiana State during the Hoosier Folklore Conference, Nov. 4-5. The guest lectures and presentations center on Irish tales and folk traditions. Vincent Woods, a playwright and poet from Dublin, Ireland, and Henry Glassie, from Indiana University, will be the special Schick Lecturers on Nov. 4. Mick Moloney, an Irish musician and scholar, will be a Schick Lecturer on Nov. 5. All presentations are free and open to the public.

Local folklore may be found online at Wabash Valley Visions and Voices:


Nan McEntire, director of ISU Folklore Archives, and ISU student Jack Ciancone go through folktales collected in ISU's archives.

Contact: Nan McEntire, Indiana State University, associate professor of English and director of the ISU Folklore Archives, at 812-237-3134 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or