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The Library of Congress has been digitizing unique primary source collection materials since the 1990's. The following digital collections focus on the Lomax family from the perspective of collectors, donors, performers, and administrators.
The Alan Lomax Collection includes ethnographic field documentation, materials from Lomax’s various projects, and cross-cultural research created and collected by Alan Lomax and others on traditional song, music, dance, and body movement from around the world. Lomax conducted fieldwork in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, England, France, Georgia (Republic), Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Spain, the United States, and Wales from the 1930s-1990s. The collection contains approximately 650 linear feet of manuscripts, 6400 sound recordings, 5500 graphic images, and 6000 moving images.
In 1938 the Library of Congress dispatched the pioneering folklorist and song collector Alan Lomax—already a seasoned field worker at age 23—to conduct a folk song survey of the Great Lakes region. He traveled in a 1935 Plymouth sedan, toting a Presto disc recorder and a movie camera. When he returned nearly three months later, having driven thousands of miles on barely paved roads, it was with a cache of 250 instantaneous discs and eight reels of film documenting the incredible range of ethnic diversity and expressive traditions primarily in Michigan.
The Bess Lomax Hawes collection is comprised of papers, photographs, and audiovisual materials relating to the career and personal life of folk arts administrator, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, filmmaker, musician, and teacher Bess Lomax Hawes, most from 1960-2001. It includes work produced by Hawes when she was a professor at San Fernando Valley State College in Northridge, California, and as head of the National Endowment for the Arts Folk Arts Program in Washington, D.C. This presentation includes approximately 12,000 manuscripts including writings, correspondence, and business records.
John A. Lomax, Sr., and his son Alan Lomax became stewards of a nascent Archive of American Folk-Song in September 1933. Their tenure lasted until Alan separated from the Library of Congress in October 1942. During that period, they administered an archive that grew in scope and volume. The resultant manuscript material—correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, and writings—was decades later collated into the John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax papers (AFC 1933/001), the focus of this digital collection.
The January 1941 launch of the Radio Research Project marked the Library’s initial foray into broadcast media. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and supported by Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish, the project created numerous and diverse radio programs primarily relating to American history and folklore, and utilized groundbreaking recording and production techniques. In just over a year of operation, the project staff of Philip Cohen, Joseph Liss, Alan Lomax, Arthur Miller, and Jerome Wiesner wrote and produced the Hidden History series (twenty-six programs, 1941), the Report to the Nation series (two programs, 1941), the Books and the News series (six programs, 1941), The Ballad Hunter series (ten programs, 1941), the documentary series Americans Talk Back (six programs, 1941), "December 9, 1941" (1941), the Regional Series (seven programs, 1942), "Dear Mr. President" (1942), and "Lincoln Speaks to the People and to the Soldiers" (1942).
This recording trip is an ethnographic field collection that includes nearly 700 sound recordings, as well as fieldnotes, dust jackets, and other manuscripts documenting a three-month, 6,502-mile trip through the southern United States. Beginning in Port Aransas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and ending at the Library of Congress on June 14, 1939, John Avery Lomax, Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the American Folklife Center archive), and his wife, Ruby Terrill Lomax, recorded approximately 25 hours of folk music from more than 300 performers. These recordings represent a broad spectrum of traditional musical styles, including ballads, blues, children's songs, cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, field hollers, lullabies, play-party songs, religious dramas, spirituals, and work songs.