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American Folklife Center Collections: United Kingdom

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the United Kingdom in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


George Baker, artist. This drawing by stonemason George Baker, whose father was a mummer in the English Cotswolds around the turn of the twentieth century, depicts St. George and the Dragon, typical antagonists of English-language mummers plays. James Madison Carpenter Collection. Published in the Folklife Today blog, December 20, 2016.

American Folklife Center collections from the United Kingdom document the diversity of its expressive culture. For example, the James Madison Carpenter collection includes folklore of England and Scotland; the Alan Lomax collection includes recordings of folk music made in England and Scotland in 1951; and the Centre for Oral Traditions Folktracks recordings document traditions across the United Kingdom.

By working with scolars, artist, and partner organizations in the United Kingdom, the American Folklife Center has presented program series and symposia on traditional culture, several of which are available as online video. From 2007 to 2008 the American Folklife Center partnered with the Rediscover Northern Ireland Programme to present a series of concerts and lectures celebrating the culture of Northern Ireland. In 2009 the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress Center for the Book, the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, and the Scottish Government partnered to present a symposium, Robert Burns at 250: Poetry, Politics and Performance. In February 2020, the American Folklife Center, the University of Stirling, and the Scottish Government hosted James Hogg: Scotland's Shepherd Poet Symposium. Find more events under "Public Programs" below.

James Madison Carpenter Collection

James Madison Carpenter did ethnographic research in England, Scotland, and the United States between 1928 and 1955. Materials include wax cylinder recordings, drawings, photographs, and manuscripts documenting music, songs, dance, and mummers plays (folk drama). Carpenter collected most intensively in the North East of Scotland, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, the Cotswolds and Cornwall. The collection was digitized by the Library of Congress and has been made available online through the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library’s digital archive through a partnership of the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen and the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

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

Vrï is a trio from Wales in the U.K., whose members describe their music as 'chamber-folk'. Bringing together the experience of Jordan Price Williams (cello, voice) Patrick Rimes (violin, viola, foot percussion, voice) and Aneirin Jones (violin, voice). Vrï plays tunes and songs from the Celtic nations and beyond, attempting to combine the energy of a rowdy pub session with the style and finesse of the Viennese string quartet. (Event Date: April 21, 2021)

Additional Public Programming