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In American Memory
In the Archive of Folk Culture

In American Memory:

African American Odyssey. This Special Presentation of the Library of Congress exhibition, The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, showcases the Library's incomparable African American collections. The presentation is not only a highlight of what is on view in this major black history exhibition, but also a glimpse into the Library's vast African American collection. Both include a wide array of important and rare books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. This presentation is not yet searchable. Additional collections are forthcoming.

America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945. The images in the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection are among the most famous documentary photographs ever produced. Created by a group of U.S. government photographers, the images show Americans in every part of the nation. In the early years, the project emphasized rural life and the negative impact of the Great Depression, farm mechanization, and the Dust Bowl. In later years, the photographers turned their attention to the mobilization effort for World War II. The core of the collection consists of about 164,000 black-and-white photographs. This release provides access to over 55,000 of these images; future additions will expand the black-and-white offering. The FSA-OWI photographers also produced about 1600 color photographs during the latter days of the project. The collections are held by the Prints and Photographs Division.

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. These life histories were written by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states.

Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982. This collection presents 41 motion pictures and 28 sound recordings that tell the story of life and work on the Ninety-Six Ranch and of its cowboys, known in the region as buckaroos. An archive of 2,400 still photographs portrays the people, sites, and traditions on other ranches and in the larger community of Paradise Valley, home to persons of Anglo-American, Italian, German, Basque, Swiss, Northern Paiute Indian, and Chinese heritage. Motion pictures produced from 1945 to 1965 by Leslie Stewart, owner of the Ninety-Six Ranch, are also included. Background texts provide historical and cultural context for this distinctive Northern Nevada ranching community.

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties. The WPA California Folk Music Project is a multi-format ethnographic field collection that includes sound recordings, still photographs, drawings, and written documents from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in Northern California. The collection comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in twelve languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians. This elaborate New Deal project was organized and directed by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell for the Northern California Work Projects Administration. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and cosponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), this undertaking was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-language folk music in one region of the United States.

Hispano Music & Culture from the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection. A presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. In 1940, Juan Bautista Rael of Stanford University, a native of Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, used disc recording equipment supplied by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center) to document alabados (hymns), folk drama, wedding songs, and dance tunes. In addition to these recordings, the collection includes manuscript materials and publications by Rael which provide insight into the rich musical heritage and cultural traditions of this region.

Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920. The collection includes 3042 pieces of sheet music published in America between 1850 and 1920. It presents a wide variety of types of vocal music: bel canto, minstrel songs, protest songs, sentimental songs, patriotic and political songs, plantation songs, Civil War songs, spirituals, dance music, songs from vaudeville and musicals, "Tin pan alley" songs, and songs from World War I. Also included are piano music of marches, variations, opera excerpts, and dance music. Illustrations provide an important, and in some cases almost unique, source of information for popular contemporary ideas on politics, patriotism, race, religion, love, and sentiment.

The South Texas Border, 1900-1920: Photographs from the Robert Runyon Collection. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection of the South Texas Border Area, a collection of over 8,000 items, is a unique visual resource documenting the Lower Rio Grande Valley during the early 1900s. It includes glass negatives, lantern slides, nitrate negatives, prints, and postcards, representing the life's work of commercial photographer Robert Runyon (1881-1968), a longtime resident of South Texas. His photographs document the history and development of South Texas and the border, including the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. military presence at Fort Brown and along the border prior to and during World War I, and the growth and development of the Rio Grande Valley.

Voices from the Dust Bowl: the Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941. The collection is an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting the everyday life of residents of Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in central California in 1940 and 1941. This collection consists of audio recordings, photographs, manuscript materials, publications, and ephemera generated during two separate documentation trips supported by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center).

In the Archive of Folk Culture:

The Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress houses diverse and international multi-format, ethnographic collections, including 1.5 million photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and moving images. It is America's first national archive of traditional life, and one of the oldest and largest of such repositories in the world.

The archive's earliest collections of recordings and manuscripts were assembled between 1928 and 1932 by its first head, Robert Winslow Gordon. These included over nine hundred cylinder and disc recordings of African- and Anglo-American folk music. Between 1933 and 1942, John and Alan Lomax directed the Archive; they, and collectors such as Sidney Robertson Cowell, Herbert Halpert, and others greatly enriched the archive's collections through large-scale recording expeditions, often with assistance from other government agencies, particularly the Resettlement Administration and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The collection has also grown through the contributions of many individuals and through gift, loan, and exchange arrangements with other archives and museums.

Every region and state of the United States is represented in the collection. In addition to recordings of African- and Anglo-American traditions, there are examples from many other ethnic groups in the United States: French, Jewish, Mexican, and Polish traditions are well-represented, and the center's collection of field-recordings of American Indian sung and spoken traditions is the largest in the world. American Indian materials of special importance include the 3,448 cylinders of the Frances Densmore-Smithsonian Institution collection, and the earliest field recordings made anywhere in the world: Jesse Walter Fewkes's 1890 cylinder recordings of Passamaquoddy Indian music and narrative from Maine.

Documentary materials from center field projects and from equipment loan program-supported research are housed here. The archive also houses the nation's premier collection of the many exhibition catalogs, periodicals, and other materials on local folklife produced over the last twenty-five years by the growing network of state and local folklife programs throughout the United States.

Contact the Reference staff of the American Folklife Center for further information about the Archive collections.

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