Basic and applied research projects in folklife and folklore at the Michigan State University Museum are founded on theories and practices informed by the scholarly disciplines of folklore, history, cultural anthropology, art history, historic preservation, cultural geography, and others.
Research is conducted in response to and with individuals and organizations from diverse communities and often involves multiple team members drawn from both on and off-campus.
Projects include discovery research and inventorying (especially of intangible and tangible traditional cultural resources or assets), evaluation and assessment, creation of digital collections tools, etc.
Documentation (sound recordings, photographs, videotapes, field notes, reports, ephemera, objects, etc.) is deposited in the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Research Collections.
Projects, funded by a wide range of agencies, have ranged from developing guidelines for evaluating sites of traditional cultural practices as part of the Michigan Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facility Siting Process to a national model for a distributed database system for thematic cultural collections to systematic inventories of specific object types (e.g., quilts, stained glass, barns, etc.).
Research data has formed the basis for a wide variety of outcomes, including cultural policies, technical reports, exhibitions, festival programs, educational curricula, publications, and papers for both scholarly and general public audiences.