INTRODUCTIONIn 'Who owns Folklore?' (Simply Australia Issue 9), Graham Seal raises some important and challenging issues. He asks the question: "Is it possible - and desirable - to establish a basis for valorising, conserving and developing Australian folklore of place in the same way that environmental, built and moveable heritages are valued, conserved and developed for the national benefit?"
My familiarity with heritage suggests that it would be possible. Whether it would be desirable is another question. To answer that question, Seal and/or others would need to determine
Seal's reference to folklore of place caught my attention because I am interested in:
In all of my work I try to gain the best possible understanding of past events by blending together snippets of folklore, oral history and historical data. Before any writing is done, a lot of analysis takes place to ensure that the folklore snippets enrich and inform, rather than distort, the material into which they find their way. Other historians do similar work but few are likely to look for folklore with the intention of trying to verify it or sift germs of truth from it.
Given the above, this response to Seal's discussion paper should be seen to come from someone who has a vested but largely non-commercial interest in a small segment of folklore. None of my comments should be seen to relate to such things as craft, costume, fairs or live performance. Those things can certainly be linked to folklore of place but their management calls for an approach that differs from that relevant to stories and images. My objective in writing this response is simply to show that the imposition of fees for the use of a cultural resource can have a negative as well as a positive impact.
OTHER FORMS OF HERITAGEWe can learn a lot from the 'valorising, conserving and developing' of heritage places and items. Not least of those lessons is that both good and bad things are happening in the areas of environmental, built, moveable and Indigenous heritage. Places and items are being protected and conserved every day but only in the face of frustrating and divisive issues that include:
VALORISING FOLKLOREWhen it comes to valuing folklore of place, we need to acknowledge that only a minority of people will ever recognise or respect the heritage significance and provenance of folklore. To assume anything else, one has to ignore the evidence that exists in the other areas. Education programs and prosecutions have not stopped plagiarism. Nor have those things stopped the desecration, destruction, pollution and vandalism of heritage places and the environment. Any attempt to 'valorise' Australian folklore of place will therefore need to acknowledge that many people will either ignore or oppose an attempt to regulate the use of folklore.
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