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American Folklife Center Collections: New Jersey

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of New Jersey at the Library of Congress.


Robert McCarl, photographer. Close-up of men securing statue of San Rocco to the float. Paterson, New Jersey. Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center (AFC) collections from the U.S. state of New Jersey document expressive culture throughout the length of the state and span nearly a century. Beginning with disc recordings of singer Jenny Devlin and continuing with StoryCorps interviews made today, AFC collections illustrate the rich variety of folklife found in this state. Particularly noteworthy are Civil Rights oral histories, occupational folklife, and documentation of the New Jersey Pinelands.

Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting

This collection presents interviews and photographs from the Working in Paterson Folklife Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The four-month study of occupational culture in Paterson, New Jersey, was conducted in 1994. The documentary materials presented in this online collection explore how Paterson's industrial heritage expresses itself in Paterson: in its work sites, work processes, and memories of workers. Included are interpretive essays exploring such topics as work in the African American community, local foodways, the ethnography of a single work place (Watson Machine International), business life along a single street in Paterson (21st Avenue), and narratives told by retired workers.

The Paterson Folklife Project resulted in approximately 97 hours of recorded interviews (90 cassette and digital audio tapes) with people in their homes and places of work; 6,192 still photographs (3,420 35-mm color slides and 2,772 black-and-white images) documenting informants, work processes, work sites, industrial and commercial architecture, and other visible elements of occupational culture, including historic photos, documents, and memorabilia; and 1,004 manuscript pages of documentation, including 700 pages of audio and photo logs, and 314 pages of fieldnotes, in addition to administrative correspondence, maps, publications, and ephemera. These materials constitute the primary archival collection, the Working in Paterson Folklife Project collection (AFC 1995/028) which is available to researchers in the American Folklife Center's Folklife Reading Room. A duplicate copy of many of these materials is held by the National Park Service, which co-sponsored the project.

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

Surati performed Indian classial and folk dance from New Jersey as part of the Homegrown Concert Series sponsored by the American Folklife Center on November 19, 2008. The Surati Dance Group, founded and directed by Rimli Roy, presents the Bharatanatyam, Oddisi and Manipuri styles of Indian dance in beautifully choreographed stage performances, where "old" and "new" intertwine in a way that give their audiences not only rich experience, but also inspiration and education about the wealth and vitality of the Indian classical dance both in India and in the multicultural context of the United States.