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American Folklife Center  

This libguide gives a broad overview of the history of the American Folklife Center, the different materials in its collections, and ways to access the documents housed there.
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

About the American Folklife Center Print Page

Folklife definition


noun | folk·life | \ˈfōk-ˌlīf\

the traditions, activities, skills, and products (as handicrafts) of a particular people or group

(from Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


Voices from the Days of Slavery

Oral histories and interviews with African Americans who endured the hardships of slavery. These recordings document the first-person accounts of several individuals whose life experiences spanned the period during and after slavery. The podcasts are drawn from several collections in the American Folklife Center Archives, one of the preeminent audio-visual repositories of national and international folklife, history and cultural expressions.

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Alan Lomax and the Soundscapes of the Upper Midwest

In 1938 the Library of Congress dispatched the pioneering folklorist and song collector Alan Lomax to complete a folklife survey of the Great Lakes region. He set off in a 1935 Plymouth sedan, toting a Presto instantaneous disc recorder and a moving image camera. He returned almost three months later, having driven thousands of miles on barely paved roads, with a cache of 250 discs and 8 reels of film. These materials documented the incredible range of ethnic diversity and occupational folklife in Michigan.

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Below are some books the American Folklife Center has authored over the years.

Cover Art
Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage - American Folklife Center Staff (Contribution by)
ISBN: 0844403393
Publication Date: 1982-01-01

Cover Art
Library of Congress American Folklife Center - American Folklife Center Staff (Contribution by); James Hardin
ISBN: 084441106X
Publication Date: 2004-11-18

Cover Art
Folklife and Fieldwork - Peter Bartis
ISBN: 0756742838
Publication Date: 2004-11-01
This guide for documenting our diverse traditional culture was issued by the American Folklife Center (AFC), which includes the Archive of Folk Culture, the nation's largest collection of documentary materials relating to historical & contemporary traditional life in the U.S. & throughout the world. Contents: Preface; The AFC; Introduction: What Is Folklife; What to Collect; Conducting Fieldwork; How to Do Fieldwork: Preparation & Basic Supplies, Sound, & The Release Form; What to Do with the Results: Preserving Your Collections & Starting an Archive; The Professional Folklorist & Public Programs; Additional Reading; Internet Resources; & Model Forms: Fieldwork Data, Audio & Video Log, Photo Log, & Release Form. Photos.


Introduction & History

The American Folklife Center is a branch of the Library of Congress. It was created by Congress in 1976 in order to have a place to house materials related to American folklife. When the AFC was created, the preexisting American Folklife Center Archive (est. 1928) was moved to its archives. The AFC focuses on the preservation of ethnographic materials from the 1800s to today and ranges from traditional arts to oral histories and songs.

The AFC archive houses many types of materials in its collections: audio, video, photography, and manuscripts. Some material was acquired through AFC field research and other materials have been donated.


News & Events

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