Everyday Culture in Bavaria in the early twentieth century: The “survey” of the Bayerischer Verein für Volkskunst und Volkskunde, 1908/09

This collection is part of the holdings of the Institut für Volkskunde der Kommission für bayerische Landesgeschichte bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The “Bayerischer Verein für Volkskunst und Volkskunde in München” (Bavarian Society for Folk Art and Folklore in Munich) conducted a “survey” in 1908/09 under the direction of the German scholar Friedrich von der Leyen (1873–1966) and the ethnologist Adolf Spamer (1883–1953). This first major ethnographic survey in Bavaria of the twentieth century is placed chronologically between the physicists’ reports dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and the questionnaire of the Atlas der Deutschen Volkskunde (1928–1935). For the survey, a questionnaire was compiled around topics such as 1st customs and traditions, 2nd food and clothing, home and equipment, 3rd faith and legend, 4th folk poetry and 5th dialect with c.400 individual questions. The aim was to identify material and immaterial aspects of everyday life as well as the beliefs and values of the wider population.

The survey was sent to all Bavarian district offices, which in turn forwarded it to teachers, clergymen, mayors or other guarantors of replies. They sent their letters back to the association. The Institut für Volkskunde (Ethnological Institute) still has answers from 598 places in Bavaria and the former Bavarian Palatinate. They vary in scope and range from just a few lines to detailed, diverse reports. In detail, the questionnaires were answered individually and in diverse modes: some deal only with individual aspects, others offer comprehensive presentations. It consists of about 6,700 handwritten pages of text, which represent a unique collection. As early as in 1909, the letters were evaluated thematically and ordered by subject category; 27,670 evaluation pages have been preserved.

Every single letter reflects the knowledge, interests, commitment and understanding of its mostly male authors: everyday life can thus be interpreted in the form of cultural practices and modes of life or as magical-religious ideas and stories. Everyday culture can refer to its present shape or to a not very specific past. The population can be understood as socially homogenous or differentiated in accordance with social affiliation, gender or religion. For a historically appropriate assessment of the answers, corresponding source-critical questions are therefore indispensable. The entire inventory is presented on bavarikon.

The part collections concerning the "survey" of the Bayerischer Verein für Volkskunst und Volkskunde available in bavarikon