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Higher Education Resources Available in the American Folklife Center

Exploring Resources

Carl Fleischhauer, photographer. Ethiopian School, Washington, DC. 1982. Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

The archive maintained by the American Folklife Center (AFC) was established in 1928, and is one of the most significant repositories of ethnographic materials in the U.S., and one of the largest in the world. At present, the archive holds more than 6.5 million items created by ethnographers, communities of origin, scholars, and other professionals. Documentation is of traditional cultures from across the world, including field recordings made in the 1890s on wax cylinders, and more recent recordings produced using digital technology.

This section serves to collocate selected resources in a centralized location to help educators and students better hone their research skills while also providing a broader context for what is available to patrons remotely. For more specialized information on a topic or geographical region, look to our other research guides. The below tabs provide information about access systems for AFC resources and pathways for exploring the archive and primary source materials across the Library. For further search strategies and selected resources in a variety of formats, please check the subpages for print and online resources. It is important to note that secondary resources are included here to help enhance knowledge about and research into the AFC archive. Lastly, the AFC's online resources include a wealth of materials that can be helpful in the university classroom or via online learning, as presented in the Teaching with AFC Collections section of this guide.

Searching the American Folklife Center Archive

The Library of Congress Online Catalog offers robust access to bibliographic records for the collections held by the American Folklife Center (AFC). 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:

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.

Beyond the Library-wide access tools detailed in the previous tabs, the American Folklife Center (AFC) 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 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. If you are unable to visit our Reading Room, please use the Ask A Librarian service to have a reference staff member connect you with these resources.

Navigating American Folklife Center Archives Remotely

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 following external websites host or display collection materials owned or acquired by the American Folklife Center. These include institutional partnerships as well as websites of donor organizations. For more information regarding our collections, please use our Ask a Librarian service to connect directly to our staff.