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American Folklife Center Collections: Armenia

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Armenian expressive culture in Armenia, the Armenian diaspora, and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


Sidney Robertson Cowell, collector. Joe Bedrosian playing zurna, seated, facing left, half-length portrait. 1939. California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections documenting Armenians represent the diversity of their expressive culture. The majority of materials found in American Folklife Center collections document the culture of ethnic Armenians of the diaspora and their descendants, that is, Armenians who fled Ottoman Turkey as a result of the genocide and deportations during World War I. The collections include early recordings of first generation refugees. Among these unique collections are documentation of crafts in Armenia by folklorist Nancy Sweezy; a collection of field recordings of Armenian tales and songs by Susie Hoogasian Villa and Thelma G. James; documentation of an Armenian school, part of the American Folklife Center's Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project Collection; and recordings of music and song from first generation Armenian immigrants from Turkey made by folklorist Sidney Robertson Cowell (described further below)

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

This online presentation, California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties, comprises 35 hours of folk music recorded in 12 languages representing numerous ethnic groups and 185 musicians. It includes sound recordings, still photographs of the performers, drawings of folk instruments, and written documentation from a variety of European ethnic and English- and Spanish-speaking communities in northern California in the 1930s. The collection includes documentation of Armenian immigrants, including music and song, technical drawings of instruments, as well as photographs of performers and their instruments.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Podcasts and Blog Posts

Public Programming

Al. Spendiaryan Qanon Ensemble performs music on the qanon, a string instrument played in much of the Middle East, Maghreb, West Africa, Central Asia, and southeastern regions of Europe. This concert is presented in association with the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. (Event date: June 26, 2018)

Additional Public Programming