RESOURCES: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 16:12:44 -0500
[Co-editor's note: On Tuesday, June 28, in a posting on the threat to the funding of the American Folklife Center, I wrongly placed the American Folklife Center in the Smithsonian Institution. I apologize for my error. The Center is located in the Library of Congress. It is accessible on-line by means of the Library of Congress Gopher, at the following address:
Below is a description of the Center's mission and resources, and its Gopher menu. JB]
AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER LIBRARY OF CONGRESS The American Folklife Center was created in 1976 by the U.S.
Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation and services, live performance, exhibition, publication, and training. The Folklife Center is guided by a Board of Trustees comprised of private citizens, officials from the federal government, and ex officio member representing federal cultural agencies.
THE HISTORY OF FOLKLIFE AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
In placing the Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Congress reinforced a half-century-old tradition of folklore studies. An Archive of American Folk-Song was established in the Library's Music Division in 1928, and its first head, Robert W. Gordon, toured several areas of the country with a grand plan to collect all American folksong.
In addition to Gordon's recordings, the Archive's earliest collections came to include the pioneer cylinder recordings of Jesse Walter Fewkes (the first ever made in the field), Frances Densmore, and Helen Roberts; the field recordings of ex-slaves and others made by the WPA and other New Deal agencies during the thirties. Thus preserved are performances by both Native Americans known only within remote tribal communities and the legendary greats of the national folklore pantheon like Woodrow "Woodie" Guthrie, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, and Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton.
The Archive played a prominent role in the revival of interest in folk music that began in the late thirties and peaked during the sixties -- a time when many students, scholars, and popular entertainers discovered that a rich treasure of American folk music had been preserved at the Library of Congress. The Archive became a part of the American Folklife Center in 1978, and in 1981 its name was changed to the Archive of Folk Culture to reflect its broadened collecting horizons. Today the Archive is international in scope and includes more than 40,000 hours of sound recording, 600,000 pages of manuscript, 200,000 ephemeral items, and 170,000 still photographs. It is served by the Center's reference staff, who answer requests by phone and mail and assist researchers in the Folklife Reading Room.
Just as the scope of the material in the Archive has broadened, so too has the field of interest embraced by Folklore studies. Folklife is the traditional expressive culture of various groups and communities of association: familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, and regional. And expressive culture includes a wide range of creative forms: music, verbal traditions, crafts, dance, beliefs, occupational skills, and many others. Folklife is universal to human culture, and it is dynamic. Some traditions come to an end and some are modified; forms of expression change and evolve. But the process continues by which traditional culture is created and developed.
ACTIVITIES OF THE AMERICAN FOLKLIFE CENTER
With its congressional mandate to "preserve and present" American folklife, the American Folklife Center engages in a diverse schedule of programs and projects. Among the subjects of its field research projects are quilting in the Blue Ridge Mountains, cowboy customs in Utah and Nevada, the new ethnic communities in Lowell, Massachusetts, fishing in Florida, and Italian-American customs in California. It has held conferences of folk custom, folk art, ethnic musical heritage, and the uses of automation in archives. Its many publications include a major book on the American cowboy, a series of catalogs on the early field recordings of Native American music, a study of folklife in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, an annual collection of essays on folklife published for the years 1985 through 1990, a quarterly newsletter, and two hundred finding and reference aids. During the summer months a lively concert series delights a noontime crowd on the plaza in front of the Library's main building; and in the fall and winter months, workshops on quilts, foodways, and holiday customs remind a local Washington audience of our varied national traditions.
The American Folklife Center has a small staff of trained professionals whose work keeps them in touch with the many folklife programs and traditions around the country. The Center is not a fund-granting agency, but it provides professional advice and support to private individuals and public institutions. The Center works regularly in cooperation with local, state, and federal agencies in the common and continuing effort to conserve our nation's regional, occupational and ethnic heritage. Finally and fundamentally, the mission of the American Folklife Center is education, to demonstrate to the American people how rich and significant is their own cultural heritage.
To carry out its mission to "preserve and present American Folklife," the Folklife Center is organized into six units: programs, acquisitions, processing, reference, publications, and public events. It engages in a varied schedule of activities, which include the following:
> Management of and acquisitions for its international collection of ethnographic materials, the Archive of Folk Culture.
> Public reference in the areas of folklife, ethnomusicology, and grassroots oral history.
> Major field studies concentrating on folklife in both urban and rural areas throughout the United States.
> Publication of a quarterly report on the activities of the center, the FOLKLIFE CENTER NEWS; and many research guides, bibliographies, finding aids, reports, and other publications on folklife subjects.
> A summer concert series with folk music from many different cultures.
> Workshops on folk expressions such as harmonica playing, quilt making, foodways, and holiday traditions.
> Conferences and symposia on topics such as ethnic recordings in America, cultural conservation, folk custom, and folk art.
> Exhibitions presenting documentary photographs and folk cultural artifacts on such topics as the folklife of South Georgia, the American cowboy, the transmission of culture between generations, and the ethnic communities of Chicago.
> Significant special projects such as the Federal Cylinder Project, undertaken to preserve, document, and present the cultural heritage of diverse groups, particularly American Indians, as it was captured on cylinder recordings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Folklore, Folklife, and Ethnomusicology Journals
American Folklife Center (Library of Congress)
American Folklore Society (under construction)
Computer and Network Folklore
Culture-Specific Folklife Resources DANCE-L - Internat. folkdance and traditional dance list Archives Dirty Linen -- Calender of US Events E-Texts Related to Folklore and Mythology Folk Music / Song / Instrument Resources Folkline Weekly Information Service (AFC, Library of Congress) Folklore and Folklife University Programs and Curricula Folklore-Urban and Other Archive at Rutgers U. Institute of Ethnology & Folklore Research, U. of Zagreb Quilt Images from Johns Hopkins U. Image Archives Usenet Alt.Folklore Archives
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