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Higher Education Resources Available in the American Folklife Center

This research guide highlights the unique resources relating to traditional cultural practices in the U.S. and around the world are available through the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center most useful post-secondary educators and students.


Lance Tarhan, photographer. A teacher writing on the blackboard of the Ataturk School in New York City, New York. 1982. Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

Established in the Library of Congress in 1976 by the American Folklife Preservation Act (Public Law 94-201), The American Folklife Center (AFC) is home to one of the largest ethnographic archives in the world, with approximately 6.5 million items. AFC collections comprise documentation (sound recordings, photographs, and an array of other materials) relating to traditional cultural practices in the United States and around the world, in addition to oral histories concerning a wide range of historical events over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, and through to today. Roughly half of the AFC's holdings are digitized (or born digital), and the number of digitized collections that have been made available on the Library's website increases each year. In addition, AFC staff have created a wide range of publicly-accessible and educational online resources based on the Center's collections and programs.

As the AFC offers numerous online resources in various formats, this Research Guide assists instructors in exploring them, inspiring ways in which these resources can be integrated into teaching. The guide begins by presenting the Center's print and online resources, as well as navigation pathways that can be taken to search the AFC archives and reference materials. The guide then suggests AFC materials that can be drawn on for higher education instruction, highlighting online collections that underscore the relevance of AFC resources and their applicability in teaching and learning about the cultural livelihoods and experiences of diverse communities and social groups. Included is a discussion of Folklife & Fieldwork: A Guide to Cultural Documentation, the AFC guidebook for designing and conducting cultural documentation projects of one's own.

Selections from the AFC's Online Collections