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American Folklife Center Collections: New York

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

Introduction

Woody Guthrie. Letter from Woody Guthrie to Duncan Emrich, March 29, 1946. 1946. Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song: Correspondence, 1940 to 1950. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center (AFC) collections from New York document expressive culture from across the state and span nearly a century. Beginning with Herbert Halpert's disc recordings of traditional music, and continuing on to today with StoryCorps interviews and documentation in the Occupational Folklife Project, AFC collections illustrate the rich variety of folklife in this vibrant and culturally diverse state.

Particularly noteworthy are the letters between Woody Guthrie and various staff members affiliated with Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress (better known now as the American Folklife Center Archive). The letters were written primarily in the early 1940s, shortly after Guthrie had moved to New York City and met the Archive's assistant in charge, Alan Lomax. In New York, Guthrie pursued broadcasting and recording careers, meeting a cadre of artists and social activists and gaining a reputation as a talented and influential songwriter and performer. His written and, occasionally, illustrated reflections on his past, his art, his life in New York City, and the looming Second World War provide unique insight into the artist best-known for his role as "Dust Bowl balladeer."

Other notable collections includes recordings made by Frank and Anne Warner across the state between 1940 and 1969; Ruth Rubin's recordings of Hebrew and Israeli music in New York City from 1947 until 1967; and the Brooklyn Rediscovery Folklife Study Project collection, documenting ethnic foodways, neighborhood events, private celebrations, street life and play, store fronts, music, folk theater, religious events, urban sports and pastimes in the early 1980s.

September 11, 2001, Documentary Project

The September 11, 2001 Documentary Project captures the reactions, eyewitness accounts, and diverse opinions of Americans and others in the months that followed the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93. This collection captures the voices of a diverse ethnic, socioeconomic, and political cross-section of America during trying times and serves as a historical and cultural resource for future generations. The full September 11, 2001 Documentary Project collection contains more than 400 audio and video recordings that contain about 800 interviews; 8100 manuscript materials; 421 graphic and photographic materials; 15 electronic media; and 38 artifacts.

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

In 2018, the American Folklife Center hosted Grupo Rebolú, an Afro-Colombian musical ensemble based in New York City that includes some of the finest Colombian musicians in the United States. The group was created by Ronald Polo (a vocalist, composer, and player of the native Colombian flute known as a gaita), Morris Cañate (a master traditional drummer), and Johanna Castañeda (a vocalist and percussionist) to promote the rich musical traditions of their heritage: the African descendants of Colombia's Caribbean coast.