2014 Graduate Field School

Graduate Field School 2014: Witless Bay

Folklore 6020: Field and Research Methods


Under the direction of Dr. Gerald L. Pocius, the Folklore 6020 field school will introduce beginning graduate students to ethnographic documentation methods related to landscape, buildings, narratives, and place. The school will focus on one Newfoundland community: Witless Bay, an historic fishing community located approximately 35 km south of St. John’s. Twenty years ago, a moratorium on cod fishing was imposed throughout the province, resulting in a massive upheaval of daily life in rural communities. Increasingly, outmigration, coupled with a gentrification of coastal communities such as Witless Bay, has altered traditional cultural landscapes. Witless Bay has gone from a small fishing community to a commuter suburb of St. John’s, but much of the traditional landscape remains. This course will document evolving village spaces, focusing both on buildings and landscapes, and how the place has been imagined and used over recent generations. Working with long-time residents, students will learn how to conduct interviews, record buildings, and describe the places in Witless Bay of both past and present.

Dates: The field school begins with an introductory class on campus at Memorial around September 4th. Classes will begin in Witless Bay on September 8th, and continue there for three weeks.



Classes on interviewing, ethics, audio and visual recording techniques.


Measuring and drawing buildings. Interviews with local residents.


Students conducting their own interviews and research. Presentation to the community of the project.

Special guest lecturers  will likely include John Mannion (MUN Geography) on Witless Bay's cultural landscape, Guha Shankar, Media Specialist ( American Folklife Center, Library of Congress ), Brian Ricks (Professional Photographer ) on digital photography, Dale Jarvis ( Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador ) on public presentations, Lisa Wilson ( Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador ) on metadata.

The Specifics

Requirements: This is a required course for all incoming graduate students. The other two required courses for Fall 2014 semester – Folklore 6010 and Folklore 6030 – will begin during the week of September 29th, after the completion of the field school.

Costs: There will be a program cost of approximately $800 per student. A pre-registration fee of $100, payable to the Folklore Department, Memorial University, is due by May 15, 2014. The balance is due no later than September 3rd, the day before classes begin.


Accommodation: You will share accommodation with other students in the former Holy Trinity Convent in Witless Bay. Classes will be held in the former chapel in the convent.

Food: You will be responsible for your own individual meals. There will be shared cooking facilities in the convent.

Leisure opportunities: The field school offers you a unique opportunity to experience life in rural Newfoundland. In your spare time you will be able to enjoy hiking, bird and whale watching, berry picking, and possibly an outing to catch cod during the food fishery—all in a scenic seaside setting.


Fall 2014 Preregistation form:  Due June 1, 2014.  Click here


Witless Bay 6020 Field Research Methods Schedule


Sept. 4: Overview of the course, introduction to the research topic

Sept. 7: Witless Bay reception

Sept. 8: John Mannion: The Cultural Landscape of Witless Bay

Sept. 9: Gerald Pocius: Observation and description techniques and practices; ethics; field notes; Brian Ricks: Photography: The Perspective of the Professional

Sept. 10: Guha Shankar and  Lisa Wilson: Archival procedures, overview; metadata and the DAI; organizing field data; Guha Shankar: sound recording, introduction to equipment.

Sept. 11: Guha Shankar: sound recording techniques, interviewing and sound-recording practice; introduction to documentary photography; documentary photography pratice

Sept. 12: Guha Shankar and Gerald Pocius: Staged interview with Witless Bay resident; project planning

Sept. 15: Ed Chappell: Introduction to Building Documentation: Equipment and Strategies

Sept. 16: Ed Chappell: Building Elevations and Details

Sept. 17: Ed Chappell: Working on your own buildings

Sept. 18: Ed Chappell: Completing field sheets

Sept. 19: Ed Chappell: Discussion of findings and the finished drawing

Sept. 22-25: Conducting fieldwork, archiving labeling, recording logs

Sept. 23: Dale Jarvis: Preparing Public Presentations

Sept. 26: Creating the presentation for the community

Sept. 27: Afternoon presentation to the community, evening supper, entertainment


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