Formally the Institute was founded in August 1936, when the Institute of Ukrainian Folklore was established within the Academy of Sciences of UkrSSR. But it dates back to the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (UAS): ethnography and art studies departments of UAS of the 1920-s bacame the basic elements of the Institute, in particular, such leading ethnographic institutions as: Ethnographic Commission (1921) and Khvedir Vovk Anthropology and Ethnology Museum-Study Room (1921), Ethnology Department (or Primitive Culture and Folklore Department) (1928). In 1944 the Institute became the Art Criticism, Folklore and Ethnography Institute. In July 1964 the Institute was named after Maksym Rylsky. Since December 1999 it has had its present name.
The Institute is a leading research institution in Ukraine in historical and ethnographical studies of culture and ethnic history of Ukrainians, ethnic minorities of Ukraine, topical theoretical issues of professional art and folklore history, ethnic culture and foreign art, history and theory of folklore studies. Its main lines of research are:
- historical and ethnographical studies of culture and ethnic history of Ukrainians, ethnic minorities and Ukrainian Diaspora in the context of current transformational processes;
- topical theoretical issues of professional art and folklore history;
- foreign ethnic cultures and arts: their history, current state and development trends;
- modern folklore studies: history, theory, innovative trends;
- ethno-cultural factors of the national identity of inhabitants of Ukrainian borderlands.
Major research achievements:
The Institute prepared and published fundamental studies: the many-volume "Folklore" series (started in the 1960-s), "History of Ukrainian Art" (6 vols, 1960–1970-s), "History of Ukrainian Soviet Cinema" (2 vols, 1980-s), "Slavic Folklore. Sketches of Development. Materials" (1987) etc. An editorial board was set up on H. A. Skrypnyk's initiative, and that resulted in the publication of fundamental works which became significant achievements of Ukrainian art and folklore studies. They are: "Ethnic and Ethnocultural History of Ukraine" (vol.1), "History of Ukrainian Music" (vol. 5, 2004); "History of Decorative Art of Ukraine in 17th and 18th Centuries" (vol. 2), "History of Ukrainian Fine Art" (vol. 4), "Ukrainian National Ballads" (compiling editor S. Yo. Hrytsa, 2007), "Artistic Culture of Western and Southern Slavs. 19th – Early 20th Century. Encyclopedia" (2006), "History of the Ukrainian Culture" (vol. 4, books 1, 2; 2006), "Ukrainians" (3 books; 2006, 2007), "Ukrainian Glossary of TV Media (by A. Rutkovsky, 2007) etc., as well as works which presented renewed and deeper ideas about the development of national culture, national and professional music, folklore. They include: "Ukrainian National Ballads" by К. Hrushevska (2 vols), "History of Ukrainian Ethnography" by F. Kolessa, "Ukrainian Ballads and Historical Songs" by D. Revutsky, "Pages of Scholarly Heritage and Bibliography of Works by F. Vovk" etc. Current research results are presented in monographs by the workers of the Institute: V. Ruban-Kravchenko, D. V. Stepovyk, Yu. Stanyshevsky, A. I. Ivanytsky, S. P. Seheda, T. Kara-Vasylyeva, A. Chornomorets et al.