Classification of Information Collected on the Ethnography of Life. Part 2: The Contribution of Antanas Mažiulis

  • Irma Šidiškienė
Keywords: methodological tools for collecting material, classification of collected information, communication between collector and respondent, folklore, local history programme, Antanas Mažiulis


This is the second of the two articles that address the problem of how the historiography of methodological tools, instructions, and questionnaires helps to reveal the formation of the discipline of ethnology in Lithuania (for Part 1, see Lituanistica, 69 (3), 225–240). The question is raised why only four out of Mažiulis’s sixteen published articles on the methodology of material collection and its popularisation appeared in Vacys Milius’s bibliography. By examining Antanas Mažiulis’s articles on the issues of collecting folklore and local history materials and comparing them with earlier methodological tools written between 1934 and 1940, we found that the methodological instructions of Antanas Mažiulis were often characterised by a simpler and improved systematisation of the information collected. In one of his first articles, he identified three types of folklore: (a) songs; (b) fairy tales, stories; (c) small folklore. He also distinguished the fourth type, that of ‘Customs’, which lists the main church festivals and groups other festivals by the seasons of the year. Most importantly, Mažiulis developed the structure of the marriage questionnaire in his methodological tools. The classification of museum collections was improved, although, unlike in the methodological programme of the Aušra Museum, he classified ‘Folk Art’ in a separate section from ‘Ethnography’. Looking at how the regulations on metrics and etiquette were formulated for recording material in the nineteenth–the first half of the twentieth century, it is clear that the instructions on metrics changed insignificantly and that the regulations on etiquette changed little in the 1930s. Then the data on the nationality and religion of the respondents were included. The idea of discovering one’s own land, which became popular from the nineteenth century onwards, shaped the view that one should start collecting material in one’s own locality, where the collector is known to the people. This was also supported by Mažiulis. In the communication with the respondent, a change in the attitude towards the relationship with the respondent is observed. From the advocacy of direct communication with respondents (without emphasising that material is being collected), there was a shift towards mutual communication by sharing information with each other. Later, Mažiulis urged and advised the collector of information to maintain a student-teacher relationship when interviewing the respondent. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the question of the authenticity of the recorded material has remained a topical issue, which has dynamically manifested itself in methodological tools as a dilemma between the reliability of the respondents and the honesty of the recorders. Mažiulis stressed the duty of the note-takers to do their job honestly. Another important area of communication with the respondent to which Mažiulis made a significant contribution is how to gain the respondent’s trust. He recommended certain etiquette in showing respect, friendliness, consideration, etc. to the respondent. This was how the researcher’s etiquette was formed. He was also instrumental in organising the collection of the material and drafting the directives. His methodological tool, the article ‘Tautos papročių rinkimas’ (Collecting folk customs), is considered the first directive for the preparation of the ‘Ancient Days’ in Lithuania. Antanas Mažiulis was a creator of methodological instructions in the field of material collection, a thinker, agitator, and practitioner (material collector, one of the founders of the museum in Dusetos (a town in Zarasai district, Lithuania), a member of the board of the Dusetos branch of ‘Pavasaris’ (Spring), an organisation of Lithuanian Catholic youth, etc.). His contribution to the historiography of methodological tools in Lithuanian ethnology is notable for the systematic nature of the methodological instructions for collecting the material, a new approach to communication with the respondents, and practical application of the collected material.