Collections of tradition and oral history

From Elävän perinnön wikiluettelo


The Finnish Literature Society (SKS) carries out several collections of tradition and oral history. The collections are organised as surveys and writing competitions by the SKS or in cooperation with various operators. In addition to the collection initiative, the cooperation partners provide their content-related expertise, their networks, and sometimes even their funding for carrying out the collection. The cooperation partners also participate in the selection of the writings to be awarded, the communications, and the organisation of the award event, if one is being held.

Cooperative collections are often launched through a collection initiative which can be made by a community, research project, or private citizen. The list of the collections carried out is available on the SKS website. During the past years, living oral heritage has been collected regarding hope in everyday life, voting habits, student songs, and supernatural experiences in war time, for example. The collections and writing competitions can be directed at a limited target group or the entire nation, as necessary. The network of the SKS archives’ active respondents is also informed of any collections. Shared objectives of SKS and its cooperation partners may include the need to gather information on a momentary or changing phenomenon, or the collection of materials for a current research project, for example.

Kuva: Gary Wornell, Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura.

The collection span, from idea to the publication of results and editing the eventual publications, often takes from six months to several years. The answers received are processed – organised, archived, and made available to customers – at SKS. The SKS archives are also responsible for the storage of the materials. The collection materials are in diverse and monitored use at the archives. The SKS archive materials are used by researchers, students, journalists, active local community actors, as well as citizens interested in various matters, both now and in the future


Collection of folk traditions and oral history has been part of the operations of the Finnish Literature Society since it was founded in 1831. Written surveys and collection requests aimed at the public became increasingly common from the 1880s onwards. The people were encouraged to participate in the collection work by publishing in the newspapers requests to store folk traditions. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Finnish national epic Kalevala, a celebratory Kalevala collection was organised in 1935 and the respondents organised into the SKS archives’ network of active respondents. In addition to collection surveys and writing competitions, systematic storage of oral history by recording and videotaping became increasingly common in the 1960s. This patient, long-term work has produced a multifaceted collection of intangible cultural heritage in the SKS archives, which serves the needs of research, teaching, media, and civic activity in general. The total number of participants in the collections and writing competitions adds up to tens of thousands, including respondents from all over Finland, from all social groups, and from all age groups. In total, the materials span three kilometres of shelving. The SKS archive contains collections on tradition, modern culture, literature, and cultural history.

Kuva: Gary Wornell, Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura


The Finnish Literature Society is constantly welcoming new collection initiatives and cooperation offers for organising collections and writing competitions. In recent years, the collection operations and material receipt methods at SKS have been developed particularly by seizing the opportunities of digital culture and information networks, and by developing the archive pedagogy and cooperation with schools.

On the basis of the ‘Minusta jää jälki’ archive pedagogic pilot project carried out at SKS in 2016, the archive pedagogy emphasises the skills of interpreting and producing materials. The students are able to examine and interpret old materials and original manuscripts at workshops organised in SKS facilities. The Muistikko online service provides an opportunity to participate in the production of cultural heritage by uploading the participant’s own memories in the form of texts, pictures, or links. The map-based platform allows users to attach the memories to the desired place on the map. The memories are available to everyone immediately after they have been written and published. The collection platform is published in six languages: Finnish, Arabic, English, Northern Sami, Swedish, and Russian.

The community/communities behind the submission

finnish literature society

Bibliography and links to external sources of information





Minusta jää jälki -arkistopedagogiikkahanke 2016


Nirkko, Juha ”Life-story materials in the folklore archives”, FF Network for The Folklore Fellows 18/1999, s. 23–24