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Melanie Zeck, Reference Librarian, American Folklife Center
Created: August 12, 2021
Last Updated: September 27, 2021
The American Folklife Center (AFC) produces guides for the purpose of directing users to resources and collections in support of research on a range of topics connected to folklife, cultural heritage, and ethnographic documentation.
This guide is part of a series of topical guides focusing on "areas of distinction" within AFC collections, as articulated in the Center's Collection Policy Statement. These topical guides are intended to be curated access points for AFC's rich resources, rather than comprehensive of definitive listings.
This guide provides an introduction to doing research on vernacular religious expression in the American Folklife Center collections. The Collection Policy Statement for the American Folklife Center identifies vernacular religious expression as an area of distinction for our collections, noting:
Religious folklife includes but is not limited to vernacular hymn singing recorded in homes, small churches, community centers, and at festivals; as well as documentation of wedding music and customs, funeral music; vernacular sermons (especially, but not exclusively, African American sermons); interviews with preachers and congregants, documentation of religious processions and material culture.
Many American Folklife Center collections include documentation of activities, practices, and traditions affiliated with vernacular religious expression. Examples include the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project and South-Central Georgia Folklife Project Collection, in which homecomings, revivals, and church services have documented through audio recordings and a series of photographs. Other collections contain documentation related to festivals, processions, and celebrations, such as the annual San Rocco procession, which is featured in the Working in Paterson Project Collection. These and other collections are more fully described in the Digital Collections and Searching the Collections sections of this guide.
The following guide offers general research strategies for use of the American Folklife Center collections.