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National Heritage Areas: Resources in the American Folklife Center

This guide presents collections and resources available in the American Folklife Center (and across the Library of Congress) relevant to the places and cultures found in National Heritage Areas.



Mary Hufford, photographer. "Mountain Top Cemetery," spread out on field in front of Appalachian Folklife Center, created by Carol Jackson, an artist from Hinton, West Virginia Included in this shot is a tombstone for an "unnamed tributary of Horse Creek of the Big Coal River." Aug. 26, 1999. Coal River Folklife collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are congressionally designated areas deemed important to the natural, cultural or historical narrative of their host region. In addition to helping preserve historic locations and locally/nationally important landscapes, NHAs are vital in maintaining cultural practices and often play pivotal roles in economic development and community revival. They include areas such as the Cadre La Poudre River National Heritage Area, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area.

As of this writing, the National Park Service recognizes 62 designated National Heritage areas across 36 states and territories, with more proposed and under assessment. Some of these locations use a variation of the title, such as a National Heritage Corridor. This term is typically (but not always) used when the area in question crosses multiple counties and/or states. For example, the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor stretches across 17 counties from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. These NHAs support a diversity of conservation, recreation, education and preservation activities.

The primary differences between a National Park and a National Heritage Area are jurisdiction and management. The lands and resources within a National Park are managed by the National Park Service, whereas regions designated as NHAs may be considered a mix of private and public lands, managed by states, community organizations, Tribal Nations, city municipalities, and/or non-profit organizations. Many of these organizations preserve their respective heritage areas through a combination of arts programs, recreational activities, and grant funding. While the National Park Service is not responsible for the management of the National Heritage Area, managing authorities may be able to leverage NPS grant money to offset the cost of maintaining the heritage area and holding mission-related programs and activities. In rare cases, properties managed by the National Park Service may reside within a larger National Heritage Area or Corridor. An example of this is Acadia National Park, which falls within the boundary of the Downeast Maine National Heritage Area.

This research guide is intended to serve as an introduction to American Folklife Center collections relevant to National Heritage Areas and Corridors. Some of these collections and guides are described in the Digital Collections section of this guide on the National Heritage Area Regions page. Others, including many non-digitized collections of note, are included on the relevant regional pages. This guide is not intended to serve as a comprehensive record of all AFC archival collections relevant to this subject.


Accessing Ethnographic Collections at the Library of Congress

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