Photograph © Raymond Townsend

The Iona and Peter Opie Archive

Iona and Peter Opie were English folklorists who pioneered the study of childhood culture, past and present. They published numerous books and gathered a wealth of information on rhymes, chants and songs, word play, sayings and jokes, games of all kinds, game terminology, beliefs and customs, and folktales.

The Iona and Peter Opie Archive contains the findings from the Opies’ national survey of schoolchildren aged 8–14 years, which they began in the early 1950s, plus their research notes, correspondence and publication materials. The children’s contributions at the Bodleian Libraries have been digitised and are presented on this website. A proportion of them have been catalogued to item level by researchers at the University of Sheffield and can be searched by elements of the game, rhyme, word, custom or belief, the collecting method and type of contribution, and by details of place, school, date, and persons.

This website is an ongoing initiative to make parts of the archive publicly available for research and enjoyment. The Search and Browse will be available from 30 September 2019.

“Although Iona…and I will never be able to make use of all the material we have assembled, nor can
see even to what use it may be put, I am beginning to think we can be confident that, provided it
survives, it will be appreciated by somebody some day.”

Peter Opie, 1969-73 accession diary (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Opie 316)

The Iona and Peter Opie Archive is a British Academy Research Project.

It is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and University College London, the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, the Folklore Society and the British Library.

The Iona and Peter Opie Archive is published by the Digital Humanities Institute.