The National Institute of Folk Culture as a research organization

The National Institute of Folk Culture conducts the fundamental research, the applied research and the experimental development, disseminating their results by means of educational lessons, publications and transfer of technologies. The NÚLK has been established as a national specialized institution dealing with traditional folk culture and the care for it thorough the Czech Republic.  It is among a few institutions in the Czech Republic which focuses on the fundamental and the applied research in a particular realm. It has been dealing explicitly with this theme since its foundation, and for this reason it collects, stores, describes and treats, in a targeted way, documents and examples on traditional folk culture as an important part of cultural heritage; it simultaneously supports an exchange of information and experience with similar institutions in the Czech Republic and abroad. This includes different forms of scientific treatment, safeguarding, preservation, and presentation of traditional folk culture – cultural heritage, folklore phenomena (folk dance, songs, music, habits, ceremonies, customs etc.), folk crafts, folk art production techniques, folklorism, principles of museum work etc.

The Conceptual Intention of Research Organization for the Period 2016 through 2022

The Long-Term Conceptual Development of the Research Organization

Based on excellent results of its research activities, the National Institute of Folk Culture was awarded the status of a research organization, and it receives the institutional support by the Grant for the Long-Term Conceptual Development of the Research Organization for the implementation of scientific projects. The institution can also ask for financial contributions from science foundations and take part in public tenders in the field of science and development.

Characteristics of targets in the NÚLK´s research and development in 2017:

  1. Virtual research room for NULK´s collections – garments

The target of the several-year-long activity “Virtual Research Room for NÚLK´s Collections” is to make the collections at the National Institute of Folk Culture accessible to the public. This exemplifies the way of how to spread the knowledge, acquired through the long-term research, among the wide public by means of the internet. The aim is to create a complete database in which the information acquired through the identification of and the comparative research into an item shall be published. The research activity includes the identification of collection items based on the Systematics for Garment Classification, the involvement of the acquired information onto the collection item´s card in the Bach System settings, the photo-documentation of selected collection items from the collections, and the insertion of the photo-documentation onto the collection item´s card in the Bach System settings. The subsequent step includes the definition of particular columns on the collection item´s card, whereby the columns shall be shared in the web application “Virtual Research Room for NÚLK´s Collections” and data export. In 2017, the project focused on making the selected groups from the collection of folk clothing available, in particular men´s vests and women´s bodices from silk and semi-silk materials, bonnets, covering the bride´s head with women´s bonnet, and headscarves. Altogether 450 pieces of collection items shall be treated.

  1. Folk Crafts and Folk Art Production in the Czech Republic – headdresses and hairstyles

The target of the several-year-long activity is to describe, analyse and assess the women´s headdresses and hairstyles in the Czech Republic. The hitherto research has focused mainly on Moravia, where manners of tying large printed headscarves (2013 – 2017), hairstyles, and shawl, head-wreath and bonnet tying (2015 – 2016) have been researched and documented. The subsequent stage shall focus on the research into and the photo and movie documentation of typical hairstyles and hairgears in selected regions in Bohemia. Due to its time-consuming and voluminous nature, the task has been planned for the years 2017 through 2018. In both years, documentaries shall be made and fieldwork and archival research shall be carried out in the selected locations. In 2018, the research shall be assessed and its outcome shall include a specialized publication accompanied by a documentary. In contrast to Moravian regions, where it was possible to build on the living field practice, the treatment in Bohemia shall be rather selective. Only several regions in western and southern Bohemia offer local tradition of wearing folk costumes, otherwise we will have to settle for reconstructions of original procedures created by local experts, and for the routine practice of ethnologists and folklorists. Our interest focuses on various forms of girls´ and married women´s headwear. The whole ensembles shall be divided according to the type of headwear with the region of its occurrence.

  1. Folk Handicrafts and Folk Art Production in the Czech Republic – construction of musical instruments

The multi-annual activity that is part of the series Folk Handicrafts and Folk Art Production in the Czech Republic focuses on the documentation and safeguarding of techniques applied on the construction of musical instruments. The task continues the previous research from the years 2012 – 2014 (focus on construction of string instruments with chiselled-out body – skřipky, ochlebky and korábek) and from the years 2015 – 2016 (focus on bass string instruments – skřípácký-style [»squeaking] bass and trumšajt [tromba marina]. In 2017, the third part of the task “documentation of the musical instrument construction” dealt with plucked string instruments. In Czech folk environment, the following instruments from this family were used in the past: guitar, kobza, harp, zither, and lute. Kobza and zither, instruments made of one-piece body without neck, were chosen. The instruments were used for solo playing, home music-making and playing in groups.  The kobza is at home in Moravia and Slovakia (and it is not currently used for musical interpretation), the zither is a Central-European instrument (e.g. zither players accompanying the Hungarian minority´s ensemble).  Due to the time-consuming construction of musical instrument, the project was divided into two years. The 2017 outcome included drawing documentation of kobza based on collection objects at the National Institute of Folk Culture, and purchase of two instruments constructed within the project for the NULK collections. The 2018 outcome shall include the publication “Folk Handicrafts and Folk Art Production in the Czech Republic – Musical Instruments IX.. Volume 3, String Plucked Musical Instruments (zither and kobza)“ /working title/ and a DVD documentary as an enclosure to the publication, which shall catch the technique applied for the construction of musical instruments.

  1. Experimental Centre of Earth Architecture

a) Earthen Plasters on Timber Structures in Traditional Buildings

This activity focuses on experimental verification of building techniques applied on traditional earth buildings as a mean to safeguard this type of architecture and to evaluate its educational potential. The multi-annual (2017-2019) research is a follow-up to the successful project NAKI DF11P01OVV015, The Techniques of Traditional Earth Architecture in Moravia and its Relationship with the Mid-Danube Area. Significant outcomes from the applied research included certified methodology and conservation procedure. The certified methodology as well as the conservation procedure are primarily intended for the needs of the National Institute of Folk Culture and similar institutions that deal with the construction of copies of earthen buildings and with their maintenance. These are important means that can serve as instructions for practical explanation of disappeared phenomena which otherwise would be forgotten. The researcher deals with several themes: earthen plasters on timber structure of traditional buildings (1st stage 2017), mud floors (2nd stage 2018) and walls made of mud lumps (3rd stage 2019). The activity also includes field research into earthen buildings and their documentation, as well as experimental verification of construction techniques in the Open-Air Museum of Rural Architecture in South-East Moravia. (Iconographic and written) literature and source search shall be part of the project. As to the study and research needs, several research journeys took place in 2017 with the aim to document earth architecture.

b) Pigments in Earthen Plasters

The task is a follow-up to the successful research project The Techniques of Traditional Earth Architecture in Moravia and its Relationship with the Mid-Danube Area, within which pigments contained in interior and exterior plasters on vernacular mud buildings in south-eastern and central Moravia were sampled and analysed. A part of the results was published (Všianský, 2014). The activity focuses on the analyses of pigments contained in interior and exterior plasters on vernacular mud buildings and it is divided into three stages: 1st stage 2017 – pigments in mud buildings, 2nd stage 2018 – pigments in earthen plasters, 3rd stage 2019 – pigments in earthen plasters. The field and analytic part of the submitted task shall be aimed mainly at the ethnographic area of Luhačovické Zálesí, which ethnographers were interested in already in the first half of the 20th century (Václavík, 1930). As to Antonín Václavík, “white muds” were used for painting in several locations, due to the lack of lime. As resulting from the description, those muds might have been kaolinite clays, which were used in vernacular and sacral architecture in western Bohemia. Due to the lack of this raw material in south-eastern Moravia, its application in the area of Luhačovické Zálesí is very interesting.  Beneficial will be the identification of the source based on the comparison of physical-chemical properties of these plasters with the properties of clays taken in the field. The field sampling will be preceded by the search into professional literature and archival materials pertaining to historical mining of non-ore raw materials in a particular area. In the case of successful search for a resource of clay and its mineability to at least small extent, the material found shall be used for experimental plaster in the Open-Air Museum of Rural Architecture in South-East Moravia. Plaster pigments are exceptional in the village of Zlámanec in this region, mainly due to their colourfulness. It includes blue (probably ultramarine), red and yellow as well as green, which is especially interesting from the material perspective. The use of green earth colours, which cannot be excluded e.g. in Zlámanec, could not be identified unambiguously in any of locations investigated within the NAKI project.

Earthen Plaster (Cob) in Timber Structure of Traditional Buildings: preparation, application, and maintenance. (*.pdf)

Further research tasks of the National Institute of Folk Culture, which are not contained in the long-term conceptual development of the research organization, are included in key activities.