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American Folklife Center Collections: Virginia

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


Patrick B. Mullen, photographer. John Weatherman I-house and Adam Clement, Patrick County, Virginia. July 1978. Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project collection, 1977-1981 (AFC 1982/009). Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections from Virginia document the diversity of its expressive culture. Beginning with recordings from the Robert Winslow Gordon Cylinder Collection (AFC 1928/002) to the Hairdresser and beauty shop culture in America: Archie Green Fellows Project, 2012-2013 (AFC 2012/035), which provides insight into the cultures within the occupation of hair dressing and the communities created and long held in beauty shops and salons across the Southern United States. Among its unique collections are hundreds of hours of folk music from the state, including performances of folk songs played on the fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and autoharp, as heard in the Alan and Elizabeth Lomax Collection of Virginia Recordings (AFC 1941/028).

Of particular interest are the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection, which contains four hundred sixty-seven reels of music, church services, radio programs, and interviews to demonstrate the rich musical history of the Old Dominion; and the recordings of fiddler Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia evoke the history and culture of Virginia's Appalachian border and is available oniline.

Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection

This project was conducted by the American Folklife Center in cooperation with the National Park Service. Ten folklorists from the American Folklife Center conducted fieldwork in August and September 1978, and collected related materials from 1977 to 1981. The materials were collected for use in designing and improving National Park Service interpretive programs along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The collection consists of sound recordings, video recordings, photographs, manuscripts, sheet music, printed ephemera, artifacts, administrative records, and ethnographers' field notes.The survey examined folklife in and around an area of the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Virginia and North Carolina border. The project documented old-time music, tales, hunting and hunting stories, farming, tobacco cultivation and auctions, vernacular architecture, quilting, foodways (including drying, canning, and baking), religious music and beliefs, as well as dance events featuring square dancing and flatfoot dancing. Recordings and photographs document local music (including concerts, fiddlers' contests, and music in homes), community events, church services and baptisms, local radio programs, and interviews with white and African American residents. The collection includes two American Folklife Center publications based on these materials and a final report presented to the National Park Service: "The Process of Field Research, Final Report on the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project" by Carl Fleischhauer and Charles Wolfe (1981).

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

Gospel singer Cora Harvey Armstrong is joined by her sisters Clara and Virginia, her nieces Kimberly, Ruthy and Clarissa, and her band for this concert in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium, May 9th, 2019. Cora Harvey Armstrong is a gospel singer, piano player, songwriter, choir director and bandleader born and raised in King and Queen County, Virginia. Richmond-born musician and producer Bill McGee has described her as "Aretha Franklin on piano, Mahalia Jackson with her voice and Shirley Caesar with her style."

Eddie Bond is a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship honoree. In this concert, performed on September 26, 2018, he plays Old-time Appalachian fiddling he learned growing up in Virginia with the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters. The Bogtrotters are staples at Galax-area community dances and gatherings and frequent first-place winners at the Old Fiddlers' Convention, where Bond himself has won countless fiddle contests and twice been named Best All-Around Performer, arguably the highest honor in old-time music.