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Lomax Family: Resources in the American Folklife Center

This research guide focuses on activities such as fieldwork, interpretation, and programming relating to the Lomax family as they are documented in the collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.


Alan Lomax at his office in New York City, ca. 1965. Alan Lomax collection. Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.
Read a blog post about crowdsourcing transcriptions for Lomax collection materials (Folklife Today blog, January 3, 2020)

The Lomax family left an indelible imprint on the American Folklife Center and their legacy is closely tied to the Library of Congress as an institution. During the 1930s and early 1940s the Lomax family ran the nascent Archive of American Folk Song and set it on a course to be one of the world’s most influential ethnographic archives.

They recorded the voices of America with breadth not previously achieved—especially African-American repertories—and introduced the country to singers who have become part of the cultural fabric. Finally, they accessioned vernacular traditions into the National Library, adding them to the discourse around creating a comprehensive collection of human knowledge and wisdom.

The entire body of Lomax material at the American Folklife Center encompasses more than 100 collections and includes 700 linear feet of manuscripts, 10,000 sound recordings, 6000 graphic images, and 6000 moving images. Created by the Lomaxes, and many others, the body of material documents the creative expression of nearly 1000 culture groups from around the world.

One major resource outside of the Library comes from the Center's partner, the Lomax Digital Archive External. The site presents audio and photographs from Lomax collections in the American Folklife Center archive along with podcasts and informative content.

Selected Images from the Lomax Family Collection

The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.