The Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research (IEF) was founded in 1948 as the Institute for Folk Art. It had been active as the Institute of Folklore Research within the Institute of Philology and Folklore from 1977 to 1991, and has been independent under the present name since 1991.
At first the Institute was being developed as an ethnomusicological research center, but soon spread its activity to philological studies. The need for an all-encompassing approach to folklore, especially its performing and contextual aspects, instigated ethnological research at the end of the 1960s and the inclusion of ethnologists into scientific and research activities of the Institute.
From the 1960s, and especially in the 1970s, the Institute’s researchers started applying more regularly contemporary theoretical frameworks in interpretations of traditional culture which was seen ever more clearly as a continual process in incessant change, not seen just through peasantry in its history and festivities, but viewed as modern everyday life of various communities.
In the 1980s and 1990s, within the Institute’s projects, the researchers dealt further with basic research of the oral and folk literature, folk theatre, music practices, material and social culture and customs, primarily in the regional and local, and less frequently in the national or international framework. The researchers’ emphasis has been shifting towards new theoretical insights, critical approaches and interdisciplinary approaches towards the questions of identity construction, continuity and change of cultural phenomena, ideological contextualization, usage and presentation of folklore, gender perspective, performativity, influence of new media, contemporary urban culture and popular culture.
At the same time, already completed research of traditional culture was being summarized and evaluated as the synthetic displays and critical overviews of the results of the Institute’s key disciplines: ethnomusicology, folklore studies and ethnology. Also, the already existing orientation towards investigation of contemporary everyday life manifested, from the beginning of the 1990s, as a systematic engagement with the perceived ongoing crises of the war and post-war reality. The associates of the Institute participated in numerous projects while researching tradition (past and present), through a multitude of topics and approaches. Such as, for instance, the relationship of folklore, literature and culture; ethnographies of war, refugees, transition, post-socialism; musical and dance practices in various communities, processes of identification in the Croatian diaspora, relationship between tradition and globalization. Qualitative field research was followed, among others, by discourse analysis and by developing the reflexive and dialogic ethnographic script. The Institute’s scientific activity became broader through international projects.
The development of scientific research is followed by supporting specialized services. The documentation service of the Institute is taking care of a unique collection of documents (on different media) about traditional Croatian culture of the 20th and 21st century. That collection was included in 1991 into the Registry of Movable Monuments of Culture of the Regional Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Culture in Zagreb and is as a whole a monument of culture of the “0” and “I” category. The digitization of analogue records started in 1997. The files are available to researchers and other users: Institutes and individuals interested in its use in science, education, art, culture, amateur culture included.
The Institute’s library is specialized in ethnomusicology, ethnology and folklore studies, Slavic studies and cultural and social anthropology. It includes important and rare domestic and foreign editions and is by its value unique in Croatia. It has been included in the CARNet network since 1993. All external users can freely use literature and retrieve data from the data base in the reading section of the library.
Publishing activity of the Institute includes the journal Narodna umjetnost and the book series Nova etnografija. The journal started as an annual in 1962 and, since 1995, with the number 32/1, has been published twice a year; the first number in the year is in English and the second in Croatian. The series Nova etnografija publishes books in the area of ethnology, anthropology and folklore studies.