Research Projects

The Down Jersey Folklife Centerworks on the premise that “folk culture is a specific type of culture where commonly shared ideas, perceptions, norms, values, skills, practices and behavioral models are passed on from generation to generation by mechanisms of tradition. Folklore does not belong to the past; it is ongoing and changing under different social, historical, political and cultural influences. At the DJFC we strive to study both ancient and new and modified folklore phenomena, in order to trace the process of their origins, preservation and/or transformation on the way to becoming part of our contemporary culture.”

– Dr. Iveta Todorova-Pirgova, DJFC Director

Folk arts are the core of traditional culture and can be seen in everyday life, in rituals, in the work process, in family or community ceremonies. They mark every profound change in individual or community life. Verbal arts, visual arts, music and dance accompany individual lives from birth to death. They tell people about the group history and destiny; they teach them how to interact and they give them a sense of memory, security and wholeness.

The folklore study is interdisciplinary because of the very nature of the folklore. We have to understand verbal and non-verbal “languages;” we have to work with texts constructed of different materials (songs, legends, proverbs, vocal and instrumental music, dance, crafts, etc.); we have to interpret different social, historical, psychological, aesthetic, ethical, etc. messages incorporated in a given folklore phenomenon. But first of all we have to identify their existence and particular form. That is why we do fieldwork and learn about different forms of the expressive culture: custom, belief, technical skill, ritual, music, dance and craft. We document family and community histories; personal experience stories; testimonies; toasts; tales; legends; ritual blessings; speech play; jokes; insults; songs and instrumental music, ethnic dances and games. We describe family ceremonies and religious practices such as birthdays, baptisms, marriages and funerals; magic and folk beliefs; folk medicine and foodways; seasonal and calendrical events; community festivals and market days. We ask about houses and their decoration, about different crafts such as woodcarving, weaving, embroidery, tinwork, jewelry making, stonecarving, beadwork, and many others.


Fieldwork includes surveys, interviews and direct observation. We audio and videotape our interviews or events. We take photos and slides of people and artifacts, places and landscapes.

Current Research Projects and Internships

1. New Jersey Fieldwork Project

The regional folklife centers and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts are participating in a statewide project to identify and document the traditions of the new communities in the state for the purpose of promoting, deepening, broadening and diversifying support for such communities and their folk arts/folklife resources. A major goal is to strengthen and expand the Folk Arts infrastructure in New Jersey. It will strengthen and broaden the individual programs and the overall reach of the infrastructure. Funding has been provided by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, including funds from the National Endowment for the Art Folk & Traditional Arts Infrastructure Initiative and the Wallace Foundation.

The project supports five teams of fieldworkers around the state. Each regional folklife center has a fieldwork team of professional folklorists, one or more student interns and community-based fieldworkers under the direction of the center director. For the Down Jersey area and for the Jersey Shore the supervision is provided by Dr. Iveta Pirgova, Down Jersey Folklife Center Director.

The Down Jersey/Jersey Shore Fieldwork Team

Professional folklorists:

Thomas D. Carroll, Ph.D. Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania

Richard Vidutis, Ph.D. Folklore and Folklife, Indiana University


Ekaterina Beloussova, Ph.D. Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow

Aftab Malik, Grad. Student at University of Pennsylvania

Nelva Ancona-Paraison, Community Scholar

Internships are still available.

2. Ongoing Fieldwork Opportunities and Internships

We work both with primary and secondary resources available to us in the Down Jersey area concerning all aspects of the folk culture there. The interns are expected to do surveys, to conduct in depth fieldwork, and/or do archival work. This includes identifying and documenting traditional artists and writing field reports. Material to be documented may include oral narratives (individual, family and community histories), music (instrumental and vocal) and dance traditions, crafts, material culture and traditional arts associated with annual celebrations and religious practice.

Interns work on a schedule of two week/or 80 hours, four weeks/or 160 or eight weeks/or 320 hours. Each intern works closely with a supervisor and fieldwork training is provided. Interns are expected to develop a work plan and work a regular schedule negotiated with the supervisor but at least 8-12 hours per week.

Academic credit may be possible through academic programs and departments.

3. Program and Archive Internships

Interns assist the Folklife Director in a variety of tasks associated with planning and producing the Folklife Center’s programs and events, exhibitions, publications (including design) and archive collections. They will be expected to work on a regular basis at least 8-12 hour per week.

To Apply For Internships

Send a letter of application describing your background, experience and interests, along with a one to two-page resume to:

Down Jersey Folklife Center (Internships)
1501 Glasstown Rd.
Millville, NJ 08332-1566

We offer paid and unpaid internships. For additional information on internships call Dr. Iveta Pirgova, Down Jersey Folklife Center Director, at 800-998-4552 or 856-825-6800, extension 131.