Dp Costume Studies (Dalhousie University); Dp Heritage Resources (Memorial University of Newfoundland); BA Folklore (Memorial University of Newfoundland); MLitt Ethnology & Folklore (University of Aberdeen)

Research PG


Contact Details

The University of Aberdeen The Elphinstone Institute
MacRobert Building
King's College
University of Aberdeen 
AB24 5UA


Carley is a folklorist/ethnomusicologist with a particular interest in Canadian and Scottish traditions and international cultural policy for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.  She is currently a PhD researcher at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, researching the role of UNESCO’s Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland.

She completed an MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore at the Elphinstone Institute in 2011, where she was researching the representation of traditional music and dance in the 2005 Scottish Cultural Commission Report.  Before undertaking studies in Aberdeen, Carley completed a BA in Folklore and a Diploma in Heritage Resources from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada (2004) and a Diploma in Costume Studies from Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia, Canada (2002).

Carley is also an avid fiddle player, specialising in Cape Breton and Scottish fiddle traditions.  She has been a fiddle tutor with Scottish Culture and Traditions Association in Aberdeen since 2005, as well as assisting with workshops at Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School in California.  Carley has performed with various musicians and dancers in Vancouver (her hometown), California, Alaska, Utah and Spain, as well as with numerous ceilidh bands around Aberdeen.  Her current musical projects include Aberdeen-based traditional music trio, Straefoot, and ceilidh band The Rolling Stovies.

In addition to research and music, Carley is passionate about getting others enthused about their local culture and traditions, and is a facilitator of events, workshops, and other initiatives, which align with her philosophy of engagement with and celebration of culture. She assisted with the coordination of two North Atlantic Fiddle Conventions (2006 & 2010) in Aberdeen and is Secretary of the International Executive Board, she is a member of the Scottish Culture and Traditions Association Management Board, and is a member of the Organizing Committee of Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School in California.


Research Overview

Applied folklore; UNESCO 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage; cultural policy and traditional arts; community safeguarding initatives; Scottish music; fiddle and dance (and associated) traditions of the North Atlantic; authenticity and creativity in tradition; textile crafts and costume; foodways.

Current Research

In my PhD research, I am examining how UNESCO’s guidelines on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (ICH) could be put into practice in Scotland, with an aim to develop recommendations that enable the practitioner communities to be empowered and supported to ensure viability and sustainability of their ICH as a living tradition.

Advocacy by, and for, the communities, groups and individuals who practise ICH must be at the heart of the process of safeguarding, a requirement which is emphasized by UNESCO in the Convention.  My research methodologies reflect Carl Lindal’s definition of folklore as a ‘work of advocacy’, with an ultimate goal 'to discover, understand and represent people on their own terms' (Lindahl, 2004: 175), a key characteristic of ‘applied folklore’.

While there is not yet a formal infrastructure to safeguard ICH in Scotland, grassroots community-led organisations have for several decades been performing many of the functions of safeguarding the traditional arts through advocacy, education, transmission and performance.  In my fieldwork, I am conducting in-depth case studies with communities and individuals who are already performing the functions of safeguarding, using their knowledge and successes to develop models for other contexts. 

Research Funding and Grants

University of Aberdeen College of Arts and Social Sciences Open Funding Award for PhD Research, 2011-2014.

University of Aberdeen Graduate Committee Studentship to present at American Folklore Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, USA, October 2012.

American Folklore Society Student Travel Stipend, to present at American Folklore Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, USA, October 2012.

University of Aberdeen Principal’s Excellence Fund 2013 to present at Greenlines Institute Sharing Cultures Conference, Aveiro, Portugal, July 2013.