The collections of the American Folklife Center contain rich and varied materials from Maine that document the diversity of the state's folk traditions. These include the first ethnographic field recordings, made in 1890 of Passamaquoddy Indian music and tales in Calais on wax-cylinders by Jesse Walter Fewkes. There are also maritime and lumbering traditions; oral histories from Aroostook county; and African American Baptist services. The Center conducted the Maine Acadian Cultural Survey in 1991, which documented the ongoing traditions of the Acadian people of the northernmost regions of the state.
The Maine Acadian Cultural Survey was an eight-week study conducted in 1991 as a joint project of the American Folklife Center and the North Atlantic Regional Office of the National Park Service to research information to be used in planning an Acadian Cultural Center in Maine. Project personnel worked closely with the Archives Acadiennes, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, and the University of Maine at Fort Kent. In addition, fieldworkers had considerable contact with a large number of local historical societies and other cultural organizations based in the study area.
The collection consists of more than 5000 photographs, 3600 pages of print materials, fieldnotes, manuscripts and catalogs, 40 hours of audio recordings, 50 pages of sketches, and an assortment of ephemeral material. These materials were used to compile a 199-page report, titled The Maine Acadian Cultural Survey, that was submitted to the National Park Service. The report contains the findings of the survey of Acadian culture in Maine as well as recommendations for the development of a Maine Acadian Cultural Center. The fieldwork includes documentation of vernacular architecture, music, dance, storytelling, material culture, and occupational culture in the Upper Saint John River Valley on the Maine and New Brunswick Canadian border.
The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.
This panel discussion highlights a collaborative initiative to digitally restore, provide access to and curate the oldest recordings in the Library of Congress collections, the 1890s wax cylinder recordings of the Passamaquoddy tribal nation of Maine. The collaboration involves the Passamaquoddy community, the American Folklife Center and university-based digital platforms—the Mukurtu content management system and Local Contexts, which develops Traditional Knowledge (TK) attribution labels for heritage materials based on indigenous cultural protocols. Presenters include members of the Passamaquoddy community working on the project and a performance of two songs by Dwayne Tomah.