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The American Folklife Center
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Performer in the Dia De las Muertos celebration, 1999
Performer in the Dia De las Muertos celebration, 1999. Photo by Evelyn and Janet Johnson. Part of the documentation in California's Local Legacies projects.


The American Folklife Center contains rich and varied materials from California documenting the diversity of the state's traditions. Among its collections are early twentieth-century wax cylinder recordings of Karuk, Chumash, Pomo, Costanoan, and Luiseño music; music and stories of migrant workers from the Depression; Yiddish songs; tales of early pioneer life; cowboy music; songs and lore of urban minorities collected in the 1950s; material from numerous folk festivals held throughout the state; and photographs of blues musicians and venues in Oakland. In 1989 and 1991, the Center conducted a field research project documenting the culture and traditions of Italian Americans in the West, including Gilroy, San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, San Pedro, and neighboring communities in California.


National Sampler Project : Selections from California Collections: Listen to audio recordings and view photographs. Learn more about the National Sampler Project.

Finding Aid: View a complete list of our California collections.

Local Legacies Collection: This project provides a "snapshot" of local culture as it was expressed in the year 2000. View a list of California's Local Legacies projects.

Veterans History Project: Browse state collections from the Veterans History Project.

Songs of America: Browse an interactive state map for selected songs from the American Folklife Center’s collections, as well as songs from the Library’s Music Division and Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

Online Collections: Listen to recordings and view images from the W.P.A. California Folk Music Project Collection, 1938-1940, Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, and Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection 1922-32.

Additional Resources

Educational Resources: View a list of educational materials related to California from A Teacher's Guide to Folklife Resources.

Folklife Resources: Find state folklife-related agencies, societies, archives, higher education programs, and more, in Folklife Sourcebook: A Directory of Folklife Resources in the United States.

Old Ties, New Attachments: Italian-American Folklife in the West: Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles (1993); de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara (1992)

The American Cowboy: San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose (1984)

Generation to Generation: Sharing the Intangible: Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum , Vallejo (1983); (California State College Library, San Bernadino (1983); California Museum of Afro-American History, Los Angeles (1982)

Print Publications:
From Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America: "The Senshin Gakuin and the Dharma School of the Senshin Buddhist Church of Los Angeles" and "Hupa Indian Language School of Hoopa Valley, California" [catalog record]

Federal Cylinder Project: A Guide to Field Cylinder Recordings in Federal Agencies, Volume 5 (California Indian Catalog) [catalog record]

Old Ties, New Attachments: Italian-American Folklife in the West [catalog record]

Published Recordings:
The following include recordings from California:

Anglo-American Shanties, Lyric Songs, Dance Tunes, and Spirituals, Library of Congress AFS L2 [audiocassette]

Anglo-American Songs and Ballads, Library of Congress AFS L20 and L21 [audiocassette]

American Sea Songs and Shanties, Library of Congress AFS L26 and L27 [audiocassette] [compact disc]

Songs of the Mormons and Songs of the West, Library of Congress AFS L30 [audiocassette] [compact disc]

Child Ballads Traditional in the United States, I and II, Library of Congress AFS L57 and L58 [audiocassette]


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   May 15, 2015
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