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Elizabeth Beaton’s Cape Breton Folklore Collection Essay

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Updated: Aug 24th, 2020

Culture is one of the most important aspects of human society. It goes along with various communities and evolves responding to the slightest changes like human beings. This phenomenon appeared in the first stages of the evolution of our world and reflected the major concerns related to the activity of numerous communities. The term culture is traditionally used to describe the most significant peculiarities of the lifestyle and daily activities of a certain nation or folk.

For this reason, analyzing the culture one could obtain a clear vision of the existence of certain people, their customs, traditions, appreciated values, etc. The history of the world and the evolution of society are written down by numerous cultures across the globe. That is why the attempts to preserve the peculiarities of life of various peoples become especially significant under modern conditions. The world changes dramatically, and very often the culture disappears being not able to resist the pressure of globalization. The unique customs, traditions, and kinds of art fall into oblivion.

Folklore could also be taken as a crucial aspect of the culture. The term implies various forms of the traditional art used by certain folk. These are literature, traditional knowledge, practices, etc. Usually, they comprise the core of the identity of any folk and impact its further development. Moreover, the folklore helps people to convey the information from one generation to another and preserve the unique character of the nation. However, there are numerous attempts to save the parts of the cultural heritage of our world and guarantee that the next generations will be able to enjoy the original motifs of numerous nationalities living all over the world.

To accomplish this task, investigators and collectors travel and write down the most distinctive features which are of great interest for various research groups or communities. Additionally, there is also one more way to preserve precious materials. They could be organized into specific collections related to a certain theme or aspect. These collections present great cultural value as they reflect the traditions and customs of folks that might not exist anymore. The analysis of one of these collections will contribute to a better understanding of the importance of folklore and the ways used to collect it.

The folklore collection under the investigation is created by Elizabeth Beaton. She was born in 1946. Elizabeth spent her childhood on a farm in Antigonish County. Investigating her biography, one can admit several interesting facts influencing the formation of her mentality and individuality. She was educated at St. Mathas hospital and St. F.X. University where Elizabeth became interested in Celtic studies and started the deep investigation of the Celtic folklore. Moreover, her thirst for education and knowledge impacted the choice of the occupation, and she worked as the CUSO volunteer in Guyana (Beaton, Elizabeth Dr., n.d.).

Therefore, she also spent 33 years at the Cape Breton Institute continuing to work with various cultural issues. Her interest in traditions and folklore became even more significant and resulted in the creation of some works related to ethnic relations and immigration. Elizabeth Beaton contributed to the investigation of the region greatly as the cultural peculiarities of the Cape Breton Island became one of the major concerns of her investigations. That is why the investigated folklore collection is comprised of the works reflecting Beatons work at the Institute and her attempts to preserve the history and traditions of this land.

The majority of the works and objects included in the collection are related to the history of Cape Breton, its cultural heritage, and ethnicity (Fonds MG 12.198 – Elizabeth Beaton-Planetta fonds, n.d.). The region sheltered several immigrants from various countries. This fact promotes the great diversity of the collection and evidences its great value. There are many objects which describe the traditions and customs of the Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Cape Breton and created their community there. Being a significant part of the local society, they managed to leave an imprint on its image introducing some new peculiarities.

Elizabeth Breton provides the photos of Ukrainian Churches and delves into the peculiarities of their households aiming at the deep investigation of the most unusual traits. However, the collection is also rich in the information related to the life of locals who resided in the area before the arrival of the first immigrants. Breton provides recordings about the Micmac culture and folklore for the investigators to realize their impact on the evolution of the region. Additionally, the collection contains the items that highlight the life of other ethnic groups like Greeks and Indian tribes which were the first to settle in the region and cultivate it.

A great number of the materials included in the collection contribute to the increase of its significance greatly. As a great admirer and investigator of local cultures and ethnic relations, Elizabeth Beaton managed to gather a large amount of the crucial information needed to obtain at least the vague image of peoples resided in the area and the impact they had on the evolution of Cape Breton. The collection also touches upon various concerns related to the folklore. These are the architecture, songs, dances, traditional meetings of all members of the community, their interrelations, etc. These facts evidence the outstanding character of the materials and the possibility of their usage for the further investigation of the area. A person interested in the acquisition of the knowledge could use the collection to find the needed facts. Therefore, the diversity of the materials that comprise the assemblage promotes the increase of its importance for the further generations. It has already been mentioned that the main goal of the modern folklorists is to preserve the basic knowledge about the traditions and customs of various folks. In these terms, Elizabeth Beaton manages to provide some materials crucial for further investigation.

Delving into the more detailed analysis of the above-mentioned collection, the diversity of the materials and topics described by it becomes obvious. The list of the items included in the collection impresses and proves its significance. Besides, numerous photos are depicting Ukrainian Churches and the peculiarities of their style. The author of the collection accepts the great impact the Ukrainian community had on the development of the region and includes several objects related to the issue to the collection. Many manuscript materials help to create the image of the culture and customs of that period. Additionally, Beaton’s collection includes the articles revolving around the Ukrainian, Greek, and Micmac culture. These present credible and interesting information about the ethnic relations between the communities, and the perspective society had on a certain event. Furthermore, the collection contains many research notes of the author and her ideas related to the customs of local people. The notes of other investigators are also presented in the assemblage as they help to analyze another perspective on the issue and reconsider the image of certain objects.

The precise investigation of the materials of the collection could also help to determine its historical context. The majority of the works belong to the 20th century. For instance, the notes on Greek and Micmac culture include the information on the 1980 St Anness Mission (Fonds MG 12.198 – Elizabeth Beaton-Planetta fonds, n.d.). There is also the reproduction of the book Centralization in Nova Scotia: an adventure in Canadian Indian Policy that helps to discover the most important concerns related to the development of the region. In this regard, it is possible to admit that the greater part of the works could be dated to the 20th century. However, it is mistaken to state that they do not highlight the previous stages of the evolution of the culture and customs of peoples residing in Cape Breton. However, the given date is not accidental as this period could be characterized by a significant increase in the importance of cultural concerns. The reconsideration of the approach towards the folklore of people residing in various areas gave rise to some attempts to collect important materials. The scale of the process was so crucial that many investigators and folklorists tried to create the collection to preserve the unique items.

Regarding Elizabeth Beatons activity, she also started to create her collection at that period. As mentioned above, the ethnicity and customs of local people were the major concerns of her exploratory activity. It resulted in the collection of important information and materials related to the issue. Starting from the 1980s, she contributes to the further evolution of the assemblage by choosing the new interesting recordings, photos, etc. However, if to analyze the collection from another perspective, one could admit the fact that she is not the only contributor as there are many works created by some other authors. They were also interested in the description of the crucial aspects of the folklore of people residing in the area. This fact impacted the appearance of numerous photos and articles that reflected the peculiarities of the local customs. Furthermore, the collection includes Paul Yavorsky’s notes about the first Ukrainians arrived in Nova Scotia and the most significant facts of their culture (Fonds MG 12.198 – Elizabeth Beaton-Planetta fonds, n.d.). Resting on these facts, Elizabeth Beaton and several people who created the works included in the collection could be taken as its main contributors.

The desire to preserve the remnants of the ancient culture and protect them from the pernicious influence of globalization could be taken as the major reason for the creation of a collection of this sort. Being a good scientist, Elizabeth Beaton perfectly realized the fact that the blistering tempos of the development of society and technologies offensive might contribute to the total disappearance of the original culture peculiar to certain areas.

Additionally, the history of any state is comprised of the innumerable quantity of concerns, events, and factors triggering the development of certain processes. The culture and folklore belong to these aspects, and the further development and investigation of the society are impossible without the knowledge of the background and the meaningful events altering the community. The combination of these factors predetermined the necessity of the creation of the collection. The information provided by it could help people to preserve the image of their state and be proud of the traditions and customs of their predecessors. Furthermore, the research interest was another reason for the completion of the collection.

Among the works included in the collection, one could find numerous recordings, photos, manuscripts, etc. The diversity of the material and the way it is organized impact the further perspectives of the assemblage and emphasize its great value. The modern world is interested in the precise investigation of the peculiarities of cultures and customs of peoples who are at the edge of starvation or have already become extinct. For this reason, the importance of this collection will only grow over time as the information presented by it will provide the basis for numerous ardent discussions related to the issue of folklore. Besides, the cultural value of the materials is also proved by the fact that more and more people become interested in the cultural concerns. Furthermore, the collection is often used for various researches of the cultural heritage and the aspects of the existence of various communities in the discussed region.

The book Italian Lives, Cape Breton Memories is one of these books. The title shows that it is focused on the major concerns of the life of Italian immigrants and their contribution to the development of the region. The authors tend to present a reader with the most credible information related to the issue and highlight the relations between various ethical communities. Yet, they use Elizabeth Beatons collection as credible evidence of the existence of the multicultural society and the beneficial interaction of its members (Migliore & DiPierro, 1999). The book is based on the memories of the Italians migrated to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. That is why it is taken as a credible source that promotes a better understanding of the most significant cultural shifts and processes. Hence, the usage of the materials of the collection promotes a better understanding of the differences between the communities and creates a clear image of the society of that period.

To summarize, Elizabeth Beatons folklore collection could be taken as a significant source of the materials related to the peculiarities of the culture of various ethnic groups residing in Cape Breton. It also promotes a better understanding of the most important customs and traditions of the community. The collection is created by an experienced investigator to guarantee the preservation of the unique peculiarities o the lifestyle and relations between the representatives of various cultures. The significance of the collection is evidenced by the great diversity of the materials and its great cultural value. Beatons contribution to the investigation of folklore could hardly be overestimated. She devoted the bigger part of her life to the attempt to protect the cultural heritage and guarantee its availability for the next generations, and her collection is one of the main ways to do it.


(n.d.). Web.

(n.d.). Web.

Migliore, S., & DiPierro, E. (1999). Italian Lives, Cape Breton Memories. Sydney, Nova Scotia: University College of Cape Breton Press.

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