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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress: American Folklife Center/Archive of Folk Culture

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, Room LJG46
Washington, DC 20540-4610
Telephone Number: (202) 707-5510
Fax Number: (202) 707-2076
Contact Persons: Call Folklife Reading Room for reference assistance; or email [email protected]

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal Holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Registration Card is required to use the American Folklife Center and the Archive of Folk Culture. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the Jefferson Building to locate this room.

Photocopying can be done by researchers with coin or debit card. Photocopying depends on condition, age, and size of items. The Library of Congress' Photoduplication Service can provide a wide range of reproductions of the Library's collection, such as single-page photocopies, microforms, or color slides. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright and other restrictions. Photoduplication Services is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Further information on products and services can be obtained by contacting Photoduplication Services, Public Services Section, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4570. Telephone: (202) 707-5640. Fax: (202) 707-1771. TTY: (202) 855-8551234.

Much of the American Folklife Center/Archive of Folkculture collection is not available on the Library of Congress catalog. The finding aids act as a guide to these items and collections. Please speak with the reference librarians.

Reference Policy:
Written or e-mail enquiries from qualified researchers wishing to utilize the Folk Archive's resources should be directed to the addresses given above. Due to limited staff, the Center is not able to undertake extensive reference service.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
Background Note:
The American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress was created by the U.S. Congress in 1976 and charged to "preserve and present American folklife." The Center incorporates the Library's Archive of Folk Culture, which was founded in 1928 as a repository for American folk music. The Archive is America's national archive of traditional life, and one of the oldest and largest of such repositories in the world.

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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
About 50 of the ca. 3,000 titles in the Folklife Reading Room reference collection deal with American folk hymnody (e.g. the hymnals Christian Harmony and Sacred Harp) and shape-note singing.
Periodicals and newspapers:
There are a few serial titles in the collection dealing with shape-note singing.
Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
The Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection (1982) contains a large amount of archival material (mostly but not exclusively manuscripts) related to religious education in American schools representing 22 ethnic groups, including materials related to Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian religious education. The Kenneth M. Bilby Jamaican Maroon Collection contains a copy of Bilby's master's thesis, "Partisan Spirits: Ritual Interaction and Maroon Identity in Eastern Jamaica" (Wesleyan University, 1979). There are a few other unpublished master's theses on religion-related topics in the collection.
Videos and Sound Recordings:
Materials about religion may be found throughout the Archive of Folk Culture's massive recorded sound and visual collections. Highlights of the collection (with accession numbers where applicable) include:
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project (AFS 21363-21829), a collection of over 460 recordings made in 1978. The collection includes recordings of religious services and music in Virginia and North Carolina; recorded stories about ghosts, witches, and the supernatural; and a set of two LPS based on recordings in the collection, Children of the Heav'nly King: Religious Expression in the Central Blue Ridge.
  • California Folk Music Project (AFS 3809-3880), a collection including recordings of religious ceremonies made from 1938 to 1940.
  • Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), a large multi-format collection that includes recordings of music for Islamic rites and animistic rituals made in 1959 and from 1960 to 1962.
  • Diana Cohen Hopi Religion Collection (AFC 1978/003), a 90-minute sound recording made in 1974 of Hopi religious music and ceremonies.
  • Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection (AFC 1993/001), a large multi-format collection related to religious and cultural education in American ethnic schools.
  • Fahnestock South Sea Collection (AFC 1986/033), includes field recordings of ritual music and dance from the South Pacific and Samoan hymns introduced by Christian missionaries, 1940-1941.
  • Kenneth M. Bilby Jamaican Maroon Collection (AFC 1983/008), includes field recordings of ritual music and dance, 1977-1978.
  • South-Central Georgia Folklife Project Collection (AFS 20874-21249), includes recordings of religious music made in 1977.
  • Religious songs from a collection of 116 discs (AFS 6777-6892) of Afro-Bahian music recorded in 1941-1942. These have been excerpted onto a single audio-cassette, AFS L13.
  • 49 discs of African-American, Amish, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Mormon, Trappist, and other religious music recorded in Iowa, 1943-1944 (AFS 6994-7013, 7068-7082; 7738-7753).
  • Religious services from a collection of 22 tapes recorded in Iowa, Mississippi, and Louisiana from 1957-1966 (AFS 12587-12588, 12590-12591, 12596).
  • 80 discs of religious music and sermons recorded in Kentucky, 1938 (AFS 1950B, 1954-2032).
  • One tape of a Baptist church service, 1951 (AFS 10491).
  • Two tapes of a 1958 Kentucky church service with songs and instrumental music (AFS 11710-11711).
  • Two discs containing an interview with Harold Wood, a Seventh-day Adventist missionary doctor in Alaska, 1941 (AFS 6330, 6340).
  • Nine tapes of Baptist lining-out hymns, 1968 (AFS 13,672-13,680).
  • One tape of gospel songs recorded at the Library of Congress in 1973 (AFS 15608).
  • Seven tapes of Primitive Baptist singing, 1961-1971 (AFS 17495-17501).
  • 13 tapes of church services, creek baptisms, tent revivals, and other religious functions, 1975-1976 (AFS 19133-19145).
  • One tape of a 1979 lecture on "Appalachian Religion in the 19th Century" by Loyal Jones of the Appalachian Center in Berea, Kentucky (AFS 20288).
  • One tape of religious radio programs, 1981 (AFS 23165).
  • Five tapes of the audio portion of video recordings documenting Appalachian religious practices such as faith healing and foot washing (AFS 23177-23181).
  • Eight tapes of interviews about Jewish festivals and religious customs, with songs in Ladino and English, 1981 (AFS 23260-23267).
  • Six discs recorded in South Carolina of religious music, sermons, prayers, and a Methodist church service, 1936-1940 (AFS 830, 832-834, 868, 877).
  • Hymns, sermons, prayers, and spirituals from several collections of about 130 recordings made in South Carolina, 1937-1940, and some later recordings (AFS 1025A2, B1-2, 1026-1039B2, 1040-1054, 1299-1304, 2711B, 2119-2727, 3147-3152A, 3789-3795, 4076-4080, 15679, 15685-15686, 15713-15725, 22513-22516, 22518-22557).
  • Four tapes of Gullah dialect religious songs and services, 1955-1958 (AFS 10899, 11303, 11475, 12296).
  • Three tapes of black religious music and preaching, recorded in South Carolina in 1977 (AFS 19158-19160).
  • Various recordings of spirituals, 1963-1964 and 1970-1972 (AFS 19346-19350, 19980-19981A3, 19983A2-19987A2, 19993A2, 20012A2-20014, 20020A3-20021, 20029-20030).
  • One cassette tape of spirituals, performed in 1942 (AFS 22485).
  • Recordings of hymns and other religious songs, 1929-1932 and 1970 (AFS 13577-13671, 14303-14314).
  • Six tapes (AFS 15661-15666) containing recorded religious services and songs from Pentecostal churches, 1973.
  • Six tapes (AFS 19013-19037) of Pentecostal religious services, songs, and interviews, 1977, including snake-handling services.
  • 41 tapes (AFS 20267-20307) of church services and tent revivals, including baptisms and fire- and snake-handling, recorded from 1973 to 1979.
  • A collection of 19 tapes (AFS 23158-23176) that includes recordings made in 1980 and 1981 of prayer meetings, tent revivals, snake handlings, and church services.
  • Six tapes (AFS 23177-23182) of church services and religious practices made in 1976.
  • Five video cassettes (AFC 1970/001), recorded from 1978 to 1982, of baptisms, church services, fire-handling, poison-handling, snake-handling, foot-washing, faith-healing, speaking in tongues, revivals, and other religious practices.
  • 15 discs (AFS 7039-7053) of African American prayers and songs, 1943.
  • One tape (AFS 14576) of Mennonite singing from Mexico, 1960.
  • Recordings of church services from several U.S. states, in a collection of 286 discs (AFS 1-286) made from 1933 to 1935.
  • Recordings of prayers and songs from a collection of 41 discs (AFS 1299-1339) made in three southern states in 1937.
  • Recordings of prayers and sermons from a collection of 140 discs (AFS 2589-2728) made in four southern states in 1939.
  • Recordings of sermons and a "Dialogue on Witchcraft" from a collection of 419 discs (AFS 2735-3153) made in several southern states in 1939.
  • Recordings of African American church services from a collection of 71 discs (AFS 6604-6673) made in Mississippi and Tennessee in 1942.
  • 88 discs of Mormon songs and stories recorded in Utah in 1948.
  • Recordings from and/or about Puerto Rico, including four discs (AFS 8946-8949) of religious ceremonies recorded in Puerto Rico in 1948; six tapes (LFP/MM/R004-R009) made in 1987 of a Puerto Rican church service and interviews with Puerto Rican subjects discussing Catholicism, spiritualism, and other religious topics.
  • One disc of Russian Orthodox Church songs, 1941 (AFS 16578; tape copy LWO 7551 reel 50B).
  • Three tapes of Anglo-American and African American Baptist religious services, 1968-1975 (AFS 19154-19156).
  • One tape of a Mennonite funeral service with hymns and scripture readings in English, German, and High German, 1950 (AFS 19289).
Inventories and finding aids are available for many of the collections described above; consult the reference staff in the American Folklife Center for more information. Some of the finding aids are available online at
Vertical files:
The Folklife Reading Room vertical file has folders with clippings and other miscellaneous materials under the following headings:

African-American Music: "Negro Spirituals"; American Indian: Ghost Dance; Christmas Carols; Christian Harmony (folk hymnal); Church of the Brethren; Church services; Folk hymn; Folk masses; Folk religion; Gospel; Gospel music; Gregorian chant; Hanukkah; Hymnody; Hymns; Hutterite; Islamic; Jewish; Kwanzaa; Mennonite; Menorah; Myth; Nestorian; "Program on the History of Hymnology in America"; Quaker; Religion; Religious folksong and lore; Resurrection; Ritual and sacred narratives; Ritual songs; Rites of passage; Sacred Harp (hymnal); Saints; Salvation Army bands; Santerķa; Sephardic Jews; Sephardic songs; Sermons; Scopes trial; Shakers; Voodoo.

There are also entries in the vertical file under the names of well-known folk hymns and gospel songs, e.g. "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel," "Hail Glorious Apostle."

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
The Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection (1982) contains a number of slides and photographs related to Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and Islamic religious education in American ethnic schools. There is a register for this collection available in print and on the Internet at

There are numerous other examples of relevant material in the Archive's other graphical/photographic collections, which number several thousand items.

Other holdings not listed above:
The Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection (AFC 1981/004), a multi-format collection of materials (manuscripts, sound recordings, publications, photographs, ephemera), contains information about ethnic religious celebrations gathered during a 1977 field survey.

There is a finding aid for this collection available in print and on the Internet at

Subject Headings

African Americans--Religion; Amish; Baptists; Buddhism; Catholic Church; Church music--Brazil; Church music--Jamaica; Church music--United States; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Church services; Fire handling; Folk religion; Folklore; Hopi Indians--Religion; Hymns and hymnals; Islam; Judaism; Kwanzaa; Mennonites; Poison handling; Prayer; Religious education; Revivals; Ritual; Russian Orthodox Church; Sermons; Seventh-day Adventists; Snake handling; Spiritual healing; Spirituals; Witchcraft


Bruggeman, Seth C,. comp. Boatbuilding Documentation in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 16 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL August 1995.

Davis, Jennifer L., comp. World War II Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 15 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL August 1995.

Derrickson, William. Maxwell and Mary E. Lister, comp. Alaska Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture[Online]. LCFAFA No. 14 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL May 1995.

Dreger, Megan M., comp. Oregon Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 18 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL March 1996.

Eastman, Heather L., comp. Iowa Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 17 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL December 1995

Eisenhood, Elizabeth D., Joseph C. Hickerson, and Therese Langer, comp. Brazil Recordings in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 8 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL September 1990.

Gersten, Ross S., comp. Minnesota Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 19 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL May 1996.

Hall, Stephanie A., comp. South Carolina Field Recordings in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 4 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL August 1986.

Howard, Rachel I., Gregory K. Jenkins., Scott R. Prouty, and Kathy J. Shambaugh, comp. West Virginia Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture [Online]. LCFAFA No. 20 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL June 1997.

Jenkins, Gregory, Joseph C. Hickerson, and Ann C. Taft, comp. Kentucky Recordings in the Archive of Folk Culture[Online]. LCFAFA No. 10 (finding aid). Available HTTP. URL January 1992.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL June 1995.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL January 1995.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Diana Cohen Hopi Religion Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL September 1994.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. Ethnic Heritage and Language School in America Project Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL September 1994.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Fahnestock South Sea Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL November 1994.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Kenneth M. Bilby Jamaican Maroon Collection [Online]. Available ASCII. URL May 1995.

Library of Congress. American Folklife Center. The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection [Online]. Available HTTP. URL August 1994.

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  June 22, 2017
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