December 16, 2004 Library of Congress Publishes New Guide to American Folklife Center

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

The Library of Congress has recently published another in its series of collection guides, "Library of Congress American Folklife Center: An Illustrated Guide."

"As the Library of Congress is the repository for the world's collective knowledge and achievement, so the American Folklife Center is the repository for the world's folkore, traditional wisdom and cultural heritage," said Peggy Bulger, AFC director. "This illustrated guide to the American Folklife Center allows us to understand and embrace our American heritage, just as it offers the opportunity for us to study and better understand the many cultures of our globally linked, multicultural world.

Written by American Folklife Center (AFC) editor James Hardin, the guide traces the growth of the Library's folklife collection from its roots in the Archive of American Folk-Song, which was founded at the Library in 1928 as a repository for American folk music, to a collection of oral histories of Americans at the turn of the 21st century. The Archive of American Folk-Song was incorporated into the AFC when the center was created by Congress in 1976 "to preserve and present American folklife." Today, the collection encompasses all aspects of folk culture from the United States and around the world.

The collection of nearly 3 million items contains one-of-a-kind documentation of traditional cultural expressions from the end of the 19th century through the dawn of the 21st. Dating back to 1890, when Harvard anthropologist Jesse Walter Fewkes first used Thomas Edison's wax cylinder recording machine to capture the songs and stories of the Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine, the collection contains these cylinders and a succession of newer formats such as 78- and 33-rpm albums, tapes and discs used to capture and store field recordings. The Library continues to make use of the latest technologies to record the world's oral traditions while preserving the older recording formats for posterity.

From the music of Cajun fiddlers and Omaha- Sioux drummers to accounts of the daily life and work of Alaskan sled-dog mushers and Maine boatbuilders, the collection encompasses and defines the grassroots traditions of American life. Researchers come to the American Folklife Center to hear music, ancient myths and urban legends from around the world. They come to read narrative accounts of everyday life along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and to view film footage of Balinese dancers. Materials from across the globe, such as the music and pageantry of China and traditional expressions from Central America, Papua New Guinea and Africa, also figure prominently in the collection. In recent years, the American Folklife Center has been recording the personal stories of America's living war veterans through the Veterans History Project, man-on-the-street reactions to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the voices of the civil rights movement through a cooperative oral history project with the AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Made possible by support from the James Madison Council, a national, private-sector advisory group dedicated to helping the Library of Congress share its unique resources with the nation and the world, the illustrated guides to the Library's collections feature materials in various formats. They include guides to the Library's collections of manuscripts; prints and photographs; rare books; cartographic materials; music, theater and dance; motion pictures, broadcasting and recorded Sound; and Asian; African and Middle Eastern; Hispanic and Portuguese; and European materials.

"Library of Congress American Folklife Center: An Illustrated Guide," an 84-page softcover book with 46 illustrations and accompanying compact disc with audio recordings, is available for $18 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop, Washington, DC 20540-4985. Credit card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557. Online orders can be placed at The guide is also available from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; fax (303) 512-2250.


PR 04-211
ISSN 0731-3527