2015 Graduate Field School

To follow our adventures on Change Islands please visit our blog click here.


Under the direction of Dr. Cory W. Thorne, 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 small Newfoundland community: Change Islands, Notre Dame Bay.

Change Islands is an outport community consisting of two small islands (linked by a bridge) that have been a center of the North Atlantic fishery since the 1700’s. Once home to over 1000 people, the community has declined to about 200 year-round residents. The island has a rich architectural history, including local curved-roof designs, root cellars, and various outbuildings related to the fishery. It also has a tradition of house-movement (physically moving buildings based on changing needs). Threatened with the possibility of resettlement /abandonment in the 1950s, residents came together to take part in a fisherman’s co-operative that helped insure their survival. While declines in the fishery have continued to depress the local economy, islanders continue to exhibit a strong sense of pride.

Made famous by Art Scammell’s song, The Squid Jiggin’ Ground http://www.changeislands.ca/popups/pop_ponies.htm and Gerald Squires’ magnificent landscapes, Change Islands will provide a unique setting in which we will learn about and apply a variety of fieldwork techniques.

Home to the Newfoundland Pony refuge http://www.changeislands.ca/popups/pop_ponies.htm (a breeding program to save the endangered breed), a variety of hiking trails http://www.changeislands.ca/downloads/Change-Island-Hiking-Trails.pdf, craft shops, an interpretation center, and the densely packed, eclectic Olde Shoppe Museum, Change Islands is increasing becoming both a tourist destination as well as a summer home for many non-Newfoundlanders. Our field school will take on some of the questions of changes in everyday life, aesthetics and power as the community becomes increasingly diverse and internationally connected. The field school will include daytrips to neighbouring Fogo Island (to visit the Shorefast Foundation http://shorefast.org/),Twillingate (one of the largest historical fishing centers) http://townoftwillingate.ca/,and Gander (best known for its aviation history and its role in 9/11 http://www.gandercanada.com/).

Additional tourist and historical data can be found at:




Dates: The field school begins in with introductory classes in St. John’s on September 9th-11th. On September 12th we will travel together to Change Islands, where the remainder of the three weeks will be spent learning field documentation techniques. We will return to St. John’s on October 3rd.

Tentative Schedule:


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


Interviewing local residents, photography, measuring and drawing buildings.


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

Guest instructors:

Kent Ryden <kentcryden@gmail.com>

Kent Ryden is professor emeritus of American and New England Studies at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of three books--Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing, and the Sense of Place; Landscape with Figures: Nature and Culture in New England; and Sum of the Parts: The Mathematics and Politics of Region, Place, and Writing--as well as numerous articles and chapters. He has taught and lectured widely in the areas of place studies, vernacular landscape studies, and environmental humanities. He lives in Yarmouth, Maine.

Guha Shankar <guhash@mac.com>

Guha Shankar is a Folklife Specialist ( Research and Public Programs), in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. He develops and conducts skills-based, documentary training programs in collaboration with local communities and cultural and educational institutions in the US and abroad. Dr. Shankar has experience and training in media production, archival media preservation, as well as ongoing projects pertianing to knowledge repatriation, intellectual property and cultural heritage management initiatives for traditional communities. His responsibilities at the Center also include planning and producing public, educational events (festivals, concerts, symposia and seminars).

His research interests include diasporic community formations in the Caribbean, ethnographic media, visual representation, and performance studies. He has produced and edited films on material cultural traditions and community life in a variety of cultural contexts. Shankar earned his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Texas -Austin's Department of Anthropology, with a concentration in Folklore and Public Culture, and obtained a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982 . Prior to undertaking graduate studies at UT-Austin, Shankar was Media Production Specialist and documentary film producer at the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife Programs, Washington, DC (1985-1993).

Brian Nicols <bnichols@cogeco.ca>

Brian Nichols is an artist and psychotherapist with a doctorate in applied psychology. He calls the world home. He will create an open studio on Change Islands for the duration of the program that will be available to Folklore students and people from the Island.

Andrew Danson  <info@social-eyes.ca>

Photographer, educator and curator Andrew Danson Danushevsky has been
exhibiting his work for 40 years throughout North America, Europe and China.He has authored two books of his social-documentary portrait work which hasbeen supported by the Canada Council and Arts Councils in Ontario, NovaScotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Danson has taught at NSCAD University(Halifax), and at Centennial and Humber Colleges in Toronto. His PhotoWorkshops have taken place in Lunenburg Nova Scotia, Battle Harbour,Labrador and on Change Islands, Newfoundland. Danson is currently workingon photo projects in South India and on Change Islands.

Meghan Jack, Fieldschool Assistant <mej215@mun.ca>

Meghann Jack is a PhD candidate in the Department .  Her research focuses on material culture, especially buildings and landscapes. She has also researched and published on museums and heritage. Meghann was the teaching assistant for 2012's field school in Keels, Bonavista. She is interested in community-based, experiential learning practices and has participated in multiple experiential learning opportunities.

Crystal Braye <folklore.wbmnl@gmail.com>

Crystal Braye received her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008, and went on to complete her Masters of Arts in Public Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2011, Crystal worked as an intern with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to document root cellars, primarily on the Avalon peninsula and Twillingate Islands. Since 2012, she has worked for the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador to collect the stories of boat builders and their boats, including how they were built and used throughout the province.

Dale Jarvis  <ich@heritagefoundation.ca>

Dale Jarvis works as the Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, helping communities to safeguard traditional culture, the only full-time provincially funded folklorist position in Canada. Dale has been working for the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador since 1996, and holds a BSc in Anthropology/Archaeology from Trent University, and a MA in Folklore from Memorial University. He is a past president of the Newfoundland Historic Trust, and has contributed as a board member and volunteer to many local arts and heritage organizations. Newspaper columnist, and author of several books, he is a tireless promoter of local traditions. He regularly teaches workshops on oral history, cultural documentation, folklore project management, and public folklore programming.

The Specifics:

Requirements: This is a required course for all incoming graduate students. The other two required courses for Fall 2015 semester—Folklore 6010 and Folklore 6030—will begin after October 3rd, after the completion of the field school.

Textbooks: The following books should be purchased in advance of arrival in St. John’s. Ives, Sunstein, and Turabian are available from the MUN bookstore, however students are advised to search online. ** Students are strongly encouraged to start reading Ryden’s Mapping the invisible landscape prior to the fieldschool **

Carter, Thomas & Elizabeth Collins Cromley. 2005. Invitation to Vernacular Architecture: A Guide to the Study of Ordinary Buildings and Landscapes. Knoxville: U of Tennessee Press.

Collier, John Jr. & Malcolm Collier. 1986. Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method. Rev. & expanded ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Emerson, Robert M. 2011. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. 2nd edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ives, Edward D. 1995. Tape Recorded Interview: A Manuel for Fieldworkers in Folklore and Oral History. 2nd edition. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Narayan, Kirin. 2012. Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ryden, Kent. 1993. Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore, Writing, and the Sense of Place. Iowa: University of Iowa Press.

Jackson, Bruce. 1987. Fieldwork. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Sunstein, Bonnie S. 2007. Fieldworking: Reading and Writing Research. 3rd Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins Press.

Turabian, Kate L. 2013. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. 8th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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, sea kayaking, bird and whale watching, berry picking and possibly an outing to catch cod during the food fishery, all in a spectacular setting. Weekend excursions will be organized to neighbouring islands and communities such as Fogo, Twillingate, and Gander to visit museums, heritage houses and other attractions.

Accommodation: You will share accommodation with other students in one of several homes that have been leased to us for the field school. Each house has a shower, and likely will not have TV or internet. There will be laundry facilities, either in your house, or in an alternate location.

Food: You will be responsible for your own individual breakfast and lunch meals. You will take turns preparing agreed-upon communally shared suppers at a local communal kitchen. The foods available for local purchase are limited; these will form the basis for our evening meals. If you have any special dietary needs, you should advise us before leaving St John’s to determine what options are possible. The closest large grocery store to Change Islands is in Gander (about 1.5 hours away).

Phones and internet: It is important to know that in Change Islands cell phone coverage may be limited (users on the Bell/Telus network seem to have more success than those with Rogers). There is free public internet wifi at the local school, however you likely will not have internet or phone use in your residence.

Costs: There will be a program cost of $800 per student payable to the Folklore Department Office on/or before the first day of classes. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A ONE TIME PAYMENT THAT IS IN ADDITION TO YOUR TUITION AND OTHER SEMSTER FEES. This program cost will cover your accommodations, travel to/from Change Islands, course supplies, and evening meals. YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR BUYING AND PREPARING YOUR BREAKFASTS AND LUNCHES. In the event that total costs amount to less than the program fee, any surplus will be reimbursed to you at the end of the field school.