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Accessing Ethnographic Collections at the Library of Congress

Using the Ethnographic Collections

The tabs below provide information about each of these systems and their utility relating to American Folklife Center collections.

The Library of Congress hosts a growing number of collections online. These collections are accessible via the Library of Congress website through the Digital Collections site.

The American Folklife Center (AFC) offers Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids for many of our collections. Read more about EAD and the purpose of these guides below.

The Library of Congress Online Catalog offers robust access to bibliographic records for the collections held by the American Folklife Center. These records will provide important information for researchers, including AFC shelf number, notes on the scope of the collection, and essential metadata to help you determine how a given collection aligns with your research question(s). Access the full catalog here: 

Beyond the Library-wide access tools detailed in the previous tabs, the American Folklife Center provides several kinds of "local" tools that focus more directly on our collections and Reading Room resources. 


The American Folklife Center Reading Room also contains reference resources in the form of hard copy, paper-based files that provide immediate access to information about collections and popular or common subjects. These files are also known as either numerical files, since they are organized according to AFC collection numbers, or subject files that are arranged according to general or corporate subjects. Reference staff will assist patrons in finding the appropriate resources.