LV Latviski

Archives of Latvian Folklore



The Archives of Latvian Folklore were established in 1924 in Riga, following the initiative of Anna Bērzkalne (1891–1956), a folklorist and school teacher. Based on international standards, the Archives were developed as the central institution for the collection and study of folklore in Latvia. The name and affiliation of the institution have changed several times over the years. Initially, the Archives were affiliated to the Boards of Monuments of the Ministry of Education. In 1945, ALF came under the authority of University of Latvia and was renamed as Institute of Folklore which in 1946 was included into Latvian Academy of Sciences. In 1950, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore of the Latvian Academy of Sciences was established, but in 1956 it was dividend forming a Folklore Sector at the Institute of Language and Literature. In 1992 the historical name of the Archives, Latviešu folkloras krātuve, was restored, and now it is a department within the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia.

Anna Bērzkalne was the Head of the ALF from 1924 until 1929. During 1929–1944, she was replaced by Kārlis Straubergs. During 1946–1953 the work of folklore specialists was led by Roberts Pelše, during 1953–1985 by Elza Kokare, in years 1985–1993 — by Jadviga Darbiniece, then later in years 1993–1999 — by Beatrise Reidzāne, during 1999–2013 — by Dace Bula; since 2013 ALF is led by Rita Grīnvalde (Treija).


Being the largest center for collection of Latvian oral traditions, the holdings of the Archives of Latvian Folklore contain approximately 3 million folklore items. The main body is constituted by Latvian folklore, but there are also collections of Livonian, Russian, German, Belarusian, Jewish, Lithuanian, Estonian and Gypsy folklore. The collections represent the culture of different social groups, since folklore was collected among peasants, schoolchildren, soldiers, informants in old people’s homes, in prisons, etc. The major part of the depository is made up of handwritten manuscripts. However, there are also sound and video recordings, notations, drawings and photographs of different decades in the holdings of the Archives.

One of the treasures of the ALF is Dainu skapis—the Cabinet of Folksongs. It is a filing cabinet of the Latvian folksongs, containing the original manuscripts of the texts published in the edition „Latvju dainas” (1894–1915, in 6 volumes). Dainu skapis was made in Moscow in 1880 according to the design of Krišjānis Barons (1835–1923), the compiler and editor of the aforementioned edition. The folksong manuscripts in the cabinet are arranged in 70 drawers, there are 268 815 paper slips (sized 3 x 11 cm) with folksong texts handwritten by hundreds of collectors. In 2001, Dainu skapis was recognised as a cultural heritage item of international level and inscribed on the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register.

The holdings of the ALF, namely—manuscripts, images, audio and video recordings, and other valuable collections of folklore material—are available online on the Digital Archives of Latvian Folklore, The digitised content of Dainu skapis is available online also from the site


The research focus of the ALF complies with the Research Program of the ILFA, UL. For 2015—2020, the main areas of research are:

Along with the national research activities, the staff of the ALF consistently participate in international scientific forums and research projects. Yearly by the end of October, the ALF organizes Krišjānis Barons’ Conference that gathers researchers and students from various disciplines of humanities, arts and social sciences as well as other interested persons. It has organized also international conferences in Riga, dedicated to the disciplinary history of folkloristics (2014), the digital folkloristics (2016), and specifics of the tradition archives (2017).

The researchers of the ALF publish their studies in national and international research journals (including special issues of the journal “Letonica”). Special series of books, such as “Regional folklore” (“Novadu folklora”), “Library of Folkloristics” (“Folkloristikas bibliotēka”), “Traditional Music in Latvia”, (“Tradicionālā mūzika Latvijā”), “Collections of the ALF” (“LFK krājums”) and “Studia humanitarica” represent part of the research work carried out at the ALF. The complete edition of Latvian folksongs (“Latviešu tautasdziesmas”) is being prepared for publishing.

The researchers’ international scientific involvement is characterized by active participation in international research organisations: ISFNR (International Society for Folk Narrative Research), SIEF (Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore), BAAC (Baltic Audiovisual Archives Council), IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archive), Folklore Fellows, Nordic and Baltic Tradition Archives, etc.

More information on topical questions and researches – at the ALF home page.

The Head of the ALF

Leading Researchers


Research AssistantsAssistants

Last time modified: 08.02.2024 13:05:58