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Collection of broadside ballads

Broadside ballads represent a specific genre of book production of a “consumer” or “popular” nature. Today, however, they are severely threatened due to their physical state and due to their “ephemerality” and bibliographic rarity and uniqueness. With regard to the research possibilities opened after 1989, the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, as the body responsible for cultural heritage in the field of folk culture in the Czech Republic, decided to take the approach of gradually systemising the processing of broadside ballads.

In 2001–2006, the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences took part in the Programme for the Support of Targeted Research and Development organised by the Czech Academy of Sciences. The objective of this programme was to protect, permanently store and catalogue the collection of broadside ballads stored at the Prague library of the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. The tangible result of the long-running effort was publication of a catalogue in 2008 with an extensive index. The second volume, published in 2012, focused on research topics that had hitherto been ignored in Czech historiography: biblical and Christian iconography of broadside ballads.

In 2006–2008, the chapbook fund became the subject of interest of the grant project entitled Society and Woman in Broadside ballads from the Gender Perspective. The objective of this project was to provide via “peripheral women’s topics” a multi-layered and diverse portrayal of the day-to-day lives of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the products of the grant project was the publication of Portraits of Women in Broadside ballads, which came with a CD, containing baroque Marian broadside ballads with descriptions in digitalised form and supplemented with full text and music transcripts and an audio recording for each song.

To help researches as much as possible and provide maximum protection to the processed collection, in 2007 the team of authors took part in the programme organised by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic entitled Public Information Library Services (Veřejné informační služby knihoven - VISK): Sub-programme No. 6 – National Programme for Digital Access to Rare Documents – Memoriae mundi series bohemica. Under this programme, a part of the collection was digitalised and included in the programme’s Manuscriptorium digital library, which is accessible on-line (www.manuscriptorium.com).

In 2015, the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences joined the AV21 Strategy research project, which focuses on researching collective memory across the entire spectrum of knowledge and research. This project also aims to record the collective memory and cultural memory of society and making it accessible to all. A product of this project is the Electronic Broadside ballads Catalogue, which is a joint project of Markéta Holubová of the Department of Historical Ethnology and Ludmila Kopalové of the Scientific Information Department. This catalogue provides a relatively representative example of Czech broadside ballads (i.e., 3371 records) dating from 1704 to 1901.

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