“And History’s Lamps Blow Out”: Preserving the Cultural Heritage of Filk

  • Babak Zarin
Keywords: Library and Information Science, archives, sound preservation, filk


The processes by which sound records are preserved have become a hot topic in Library and Information Science (LIS) circles in recent years, as both technological shifts and cultural concern for preservation have drawn attention to how little of the nation’s sound and music files remain for future use and access. While much of the literature has focused on higher level concerns such as advocating for sound preservation and what practices should be applied, less has been written regarding the practical skillsets LIS professionals will need in creating and curating such collections. To begin looking at this question, this paper explores the subculture of science-fiction-and-fantasy-related folk music known as “filk,” and the challenges which that community has faced in preserving its music.

This paper is divided into four parts. Part I offers a brief review of the current state of sound preservation in the United States, along with the challenges being faced by sound preservationists and archivists, followed by an overview of filk and its subculture in Part II. Part III then discusses several attempts at such preservation by the community itself, and offers comparisons with similar community attempts at creating “amateur archives.” Finally, Part IV concludes by revisiting Part I and discussing what the attempts at preserving filk reveal about the skills that LIS professionals will need in attempting future sound preservations.