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Teacher, Mentor, and Colleague:
Southern Indiana Field School

For two weeks in mid-August, every year from 1971 to 1982, Warren supervised a group of graduate students in what was for most their first experience in the field. In the excerpt from a longer article reprinted here, Warren explains the origin, goals, and future promise of the field school. The dissertations of many students were born during encounters and discoveries made in Dubois and neighboring counties.

"In 1972, the graduate students at the Folklore Institute of Indiana University through their Folklore Students Association began discussing the possibility of establishing a field station. Just what the field station was to be and how it would be operated and, especially, funded never became quite clear, but it became apparent that there was a strong desire to have some kind of a semi-permanent fieldwork project. Because of the basic importance of fieldwork in folklore and folklife research, the Folklore Institute had long required that all candidates for the M.A. or Ph.D. take courses in fieldwork unless they had had extensive field experience previously. Due to the exigencies of the academic calendar, such courses had been offered during the regular academic semester in the classroom supplemented by individual fieldwork. As discussion developed, it became obvious that an alternative way of meeting the fieldwork requirement would be desirable. It was finally decided that a course would be offered in the summer of 1972 which would involve a group of students spending about two weeks together in the field. When the possibility of doing fieldwork in the Dubois County area was proposed, I immediately became involved and, working with the committee of the Folklore Students Association, developed the details for that first summer trip. It was decided that the only practical time for the trip was a two-week period in August which would include the final week of the summer session and the following week which would normally be a vacation period. In this way graduate students who were enrolled in the summer session could arrange to be away from the campus the last week of classes and could remain for the following week while some students not enrolled for the summer session but planning to enroll for the fall semester could come to Bloomington a few weeks before fall classes began to take part in the fieldwork. We immediately realized that our plans could never materialize unless a suitable place to stay in Dubois County could be found. To our great good fortune, Sister Angela, the Librarian for the Convent of the Immaculate Conception and Girls' Academy, was in Bloomington at the University that summer. We contacted her and explained our plans, and she at once pointed out that accommodations were available at the Girls' Academy. It was due to the helpful interest of Sister Angela and other sisters at the Convent that our fieldwork project was able to begin that first summer and it is their support that has made it possible to continue the project each summer. Each August for the past four years about fifteen graduate students and I have gone to Ferdinand where we stay at Kordes Hall, an excellent modern dormitory. When we are not eating turtle soup at some church picnic in the area, we also prepare our own meals in the dormitory kitchen.

The fieldwork project has two primary goals. The first is to provide fieldwork experience to students. The Dubois County area is excellent for this purpose. Many aspects of the old traditional ways of life still flourish in this area so that there are innumerable opportunities to collect a wide variety of material. The residents in the area have been almost uniformly helpful. They are interested in their own heritage and thus can readily understand and appreciate why visitors to the area are likewise interested in old buildings, crafts, legends, and the like. The students go out in small groups usually and this practice helps bolster the morale of the neophyte. Moreover, constant discussion of all aspects of the fieldwork experience goes on, especially at the communal meals. Thus, instead of reading about how to do fieldwork, the students are constantly doing it and learning while doing it.

The second major goal of the project is to study and collect the folklore and folklife of the area so that, after a period of years, it may be possible to complete and publish a monograph dealing with the area. In addition to the more general possibilities for research, the Dubois County area presents an outstanding opportunity to explore the whole concept of regionalism or area study. In this area there were Protestant settlers of Anglo­American descent who had moved into the area in the early years of the nineteenth century. They have, if nothing else, left their trace in the place names of the area which show little German influence. Beginning in the 1840s, large numbers of German Catholics moved into the area so that the German-American Catholics now predominate, though there is also a significant German-American Protestant element now in the area. Many problems for research immediately present themselves: What was the German culture the immigrants brought with them like? How has it changed over the years? What did they learn from their Anglo-American neighbors? In what ways is the life of the present-day people in this area different from that of the Anglo-American Protestant areas surrounding them? It is these questions and others which the field­workers have been attempting to deal with for the past four years.

It must be admitted at once that progress in answering these questions has been slow. For the most part the fieldworkers who have gone to Ferdinand spend most of the two weeks there becoming familiar with the area and becoming accustomed to fieldwork. Only in a few cases has it been possible for individual fieldworkers to return to the area after the lapse of the two weeks to do further work and especially to follow up leads. Nevertheless, a significant and valuable amount of material has been accumulated on such topics as folk architecture, folk crafts, cookery, cemeteries and gravestones, folk music, legends, folk beliefs, folk religion, festivals, and agricultural practices."

“Field Work in Dubois County, Indiana, Echoes (the newsletter of the Pioneer America Society), 1976.

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