The Cabinet of Dainas / Dainu skapis

Dainu skapis is a cabinet with 73 drawers of three different sizes used as an editor's tool by Krišjānis Barons (1835-1923) working at the most famous edition of Latvian folksongs “Latvju Dainas” (published in 6 volumes / 8 tomes between 1894 and 1915). The cabinet itself (as a furniture item) was made by a craftsman in Moscow in 1880, the contents of it – paper slips sized approx. 3 x 11 cm (which constitute the actual value of the heritage item) – are the collection of folksong texts sent to the editor by different collectors and copied from other sources available at the time of editing. The material found there came from different individual collections, dating back to mid-19th century (the copied material comes from editions published as early as 1807). The compilation work of the particular edition was started in 1878, so the bulk of the material is later than this date.

The very idea of a folksong text publication was part of the Latvian national revival. This movement followed the European romantic tradition of the time searching for important heritage of the past to turn that into the cornerstone of the modern culture. The particular work survived change of trends and Dainu skapis for many decades has been both a symbol of Latvianness and a priceless source for scholarly research.

The Dainu skapis was transferred to the Archives of Latvian Folklore (ALF) in 1940, and has remained in the custody of this institution notwithstanding the administrative changes including the aforementioned institution in the structure of different other institutions (at the moment being the Archives of Latvian Folklore are a department of the University of Latvia Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art). For 70 years the Dainu skapis is part of the folklore material collection of the ALF, situated in Riga, Latvia.

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