Skip to Main Content

American Folklife Center Collections: Ohio

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


Photograph of Captain Pearl R. Nye Standing Outside Camp Charming. Captain Pearl R. Nye: Life on the Ohio and Erie Canal. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections from Ohio document expressive culture from nearly every corner of the state and span nearly a century. Beginning with Lomax family recordings made near Cincinnati in 1938, and continuing today with interviews of civil rights leaders, AFC collections illustrate the rich variety of folklife in the Buckeye State.

Particularly noteworthy are the Anne Grimes collection (AFC 1996/003) that documents singing practices in eastern Ohio; the Cooperative Recreation Service collection (AFC 2016/053), a publishing company based in central Ohio that exerted an impact on folk music education in the 20th century; the Jonas Balys collection (AFC 1953/016) recordings of Lithuanian diaspora communities; and the Ethnic grocers in the urban Midwest—Archie Green Fellows Project, 2013-2014 (AFC 2013/016), as well as numerous collections relating broadly to the Ohio River Valley. The Center also has material culture documentation, vernacular religion, and occupational folklife in its Ohio collections.

Captain Pearl R. Nye: Life on the Ohio and Erie Canal

This collection captures the culture and music of the men, women, and children who worked and lived along the Ohio and Erie Canal. Nye, who was born and raised on a canal boat, never lost his love of the "Big Ditch." After the canal closed permanently in 1913, he devoted considerable time and energy to preserving its songs and stories.

Nye was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with the Lomaxes frequently after meeting them in 1937. In addition, he transcribed the lyrics of hundreds of songs for the Library of Congress. Nye taped handwritten song texts together creating "scrolls"—the longest in this collection is approximately 14 feet. Many of Nye’s letters  and song texts are included in this online presentation.

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.

Public Programming

Harmonia presents traditional folk music of Eastern Europe, ranging from the Danube to the Carpathians. Its repertoire reflects the cultures of this region: Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, Romanian, Croatian and Gypsy. Performed on authentic folk instruments, and styled after turn-of-the-century eastern-European Gypsy bands, their music is drawn from both the urban and rural traditions of eastern Europe. The musicians come from varied eastern-European backgrounds; in Harmonia they have found a common musical language. In addition to being polished performers on instruments as varied as accordion, upright bass, violin, pan-flute, and cimbalom (hammered dulcimer), Harmonia's members are adept at explaining their music and culture to diverse audiences. Harmonia brings to the concert stage the vitality and excitement of ethnic weddings, celebrations, and smoky cafes that inspired composers such as Bartok, Brahms and Liszt. This concert took place at the Library of Congress on July 11, 2013.