Classification of Information Collected on the Ethnography of Life. Part 1: From the Historiography of Methodological Tools

  • Irma Šidiškienė
Keywords: methodological tools for material collection, classification of collected material, ethnography, local studies programmes


The article deals with the way the historiography of methodological tools, instructions, and questionnaires helps to reveal the formation of the ethnological science in Lithuania. The publication of programmes and methodological tools for collecting materials in Lithuanian started more intensively only in the 1920s. There are a number of researchers who contributed, to a lesser or greater extent, to their preparation: they are mentioned in the bibliography compiled by Vacys Milius. However, for reasons unknown, this bibliography does not include Antanas Mažiulis’s articles in this field. To the knowledge of the author of this paper, Mažiulis wrote 16 articles, while Milius’s bibliography mentions only four. What was the nature of Mažiulis’s methodological tools (articles) and what new contributions did they make? In order to answer these questions, this article (Part 1) examines chronologically the evolution of the programmes and methodological instructions for the collection of ethnographic material that appeared in the nineteenth century and up until the 1920s. The analysis of these methodological tools is based on the ways of information classification. The object of the research is the first methodological tools for collecting ethnographic material. The aim of the research is to follow chronology and to highlight both the nature of the first methodological tools (which appeared before the 1920s inclusively) for collecting information containing ethnographic themes and the shifts in it. To this end, the objectives are: to identify the classification of the information contained (a) in the methodological tools published in Polish and Russian, and (b) in programmes for collecting ethnographic material on the life of Lithuanians. Qualitative content analysis and comparative analysis were applied in this study.
The chronological analysis of the programmes and methodological tools for collecting material about the population and its lifestyle covers not only the programmes and methodological tools disseminated and published in Lithuania: it also focuses on the methodologies (sometimes several of them) published in Poland and Russia, because in most cases they were used as a basis for the preparation of other programmes or methodological tools. The programmes and methodological tools for the study of Lithuanians published in Lithuanian were those included in Milius’s bibliography, with a few articles added to the list.
A chronological analysis of the classification of the information contained in these methodological tools revealed that the first programmes for collecting material in Polish and Russian were of a comprehensive nature. In these methodological tools, ethnography is classified as part of the science of history dealing with the language, physical appearance, migration, etc. of other tribes. Other comprehensive programmes (or subjects) included a section on ‘Rites and Customs’ (within the subject of Statistics and Topography), which covered, in modern terms, the material (or themes) on linguistics, physical anthropology, ethnography, and folklore. From the mid-nineteenth century, when studies into the life and thinking of the people of own land began, the ethnography section consisted of topics similar to those of the former sections called ‘customs and rites’, with the inclusion of ethnographic issues and other miscellaneous themes from the subject of history. The comprehensive nature of the programmes and the targeted exploration of own country point to the beginnings of methodological tools of the type of local studies. The general comprehensive programmes of the 1910s-1920s can be referred to as local studies programmes, because they covered various scholarly subjects and were aimed at learning about one’s own country. The term ‘local studies’ became especially popular in Lithuania in the 1930s. It was often used in campaigns for gathering antiquities for museum collections.
From the nineteenth century onwards, the structural composition of material collection programmes and methodological tools was characterised by their comprehensive nature in terms of the subject matter, while the field studies of own localities and environs showed that they were the forerunners of the local studies programmes.
Local studies programmes became particularly popular in the first half of the twentieth century under the influence of the ideas of exploring own land. As the development of methodological tools for collecting material in Lithuania shows, the classification, branches, and terminology of the discipline were still evolving in the first half of the twentieth century. Paradoxically, ethnography as an umbrella concept of methodological tools for material collecting facilitated the emergence of the subjects of linguistics, folklore, and physical anthropology (as material or themes), while ethnography as such remained in the margins. We would argue that the thematic tools for collecting material (questionnaires, surveys, etc.), which began to be developed from the 1870s onwards, may have contributed to the purification of the formation of scholarly disciplines.